What I want to teach children through music


Minori is a singer-songwriter who runs a music school called ``M's music'' in Yokohama. I am active in a wide range of activities, including teaching special classes at kindergartens and elementary schools to create songs with children, and creating theme songs for companies and organizations.
This time, we asked him about how he started his music career, up until now, and about his future plans.

Encounter with music was childhood

Singing live performance (Image provided by Minori)

-Please tell us about Minori's recent activities.
While performing live and on YouTube as a singer-songwriter, I also teach at a music school in Yokohama. I am involved in producing insert songs for TV programs, BGM for music plays and short films, and also in special classes where children create songs from scratch as part of the ``School Outreach Program,'' which provides live music experiences at elementary schools in Yokohama City. Masu.

-You are active in many fields. I'm curious about all of this, but please tell me how you got involved in music.
My first experience with music was when I followed my sister's piano lessons. He had wanted to play the piano since he was 2 years old, so I decided to attend him from the age of 3. The piano teacher I had at that time didn't teach me anything special, but he always cared for me and taught me that ``music is fun'' using a variety of approaches, not just the piano. After that, I continued learning the piano in 3rd and 6th grade at different piano classes, and although some of the practices were not only fun but also difficult, I was inspired to learn from a teacher who was a part-time instructor at a high school that had a music department. I went to a high school with a music department. I also went on to music college.

-How about continuing to play the piano and mastering something you are interested in?
Of course I loved it and kept doing it, but somewhere in my heart I always had doubts. In high school, I was surrounded by teachers and friends who were serious about music, and in an atmosphere where it was obvious that I was going to go to music college, I felt a sense of hardship and fear that I couldn't escape from this trend. Now that I think about it, maybe the field of classical music wasn't for me. When I was a teenager, I didn't understand the point of studying music from a different era, even if it was considered a masterpiece.

Even after entering music college, my desire to escape and quit remained the same. Even when I asked my friends and seniors how they felt about practicing and playing, they remained confused. I think he wasn't mature enough. Of course, this issue has now resolved and I have come to understand the importance of learning classical music.

- Even though you loved it and continued to do it, there were long and difficult times.
I think there are times when you have to overcome difficult things when you are young and your inner self has not yet grown. I want to teach children that ``sometimes you can see new scenery ahead of you.'' I believe that experience has led me to where I am today.

Days when I am lost and searching for my true identity

-After graduating from university, did you do any work related to music?
At first, I was a rhythmic instructor at Culture School. It was really fun to play music with small children aged 0-3. Instead of following a set piece of music according to the score, we improvised freely based on our reactions on the spot. Playing the piano while singing seemed to suit me very well.

After that, I discovered gospel music and started playing piano accompaniment for gospel singers, and started a team and started classes for adults. There is no sheet music, but the chords are copied by ear, and the lyrics are conveyed. Repeat one phrase if you feel like it. There is also a world like this where the music you create on the spot is very free and you can do whatever you want! That was a new discovery. I also started liking old jazz and joined a New Orleans jazz style band.

The world outside of classical music has expanded, and I think it's fun and suits me, but I can't believe that this is it! Maybe it's just my nature, but I find myself asking, "Why am I doing this?" I went through many twists and turns in my early twenties without being able to find ``music that touched my heart.''

-Even though you were inspired by a variety of music, you were still unsure. After that?
At the age of 25, he started a music school for children called ``Ems Music.'' At the time, I was also teaching rhythmic music, so I needed a large space and a grand piano. I searched for a place with a comfortable environment and found a good place in Yokohama, so I moved there and started handing out flyers for classrooms.

However, once my music classes were on track and I had some free time, I started thinking about my future musical activities. I want to do activities that utilize my skills! We want to provide something useful for the future! That's what I started to think.

- So you've found a new goal that's unique to you.
When I was 28 years old, I went to the 60th birthday concert of Hirotaka Nakagawa, a singer-songwriter, picture book author, and one of the first men in Japan to obtain a nursery school qualification. When I was little, I loved Nakagawa's CD that we had at home and listened to it over and over again. The song "Niji" is famous.

I was really impressed when I saw Mr. Nakagawa's free playing style at a concert. Express yourself without fitting into a mold. I was freed from the fixed idea of ``this is what I have to do,'' and the weight on my shoulders suddenly went away, and my mindset completely changed. Without overthinking it, I started to think that I should just take the first step and create a song based on what oozes from deep inside me, and that I want to engage with music as a tool to express myself without any frills.

-That's a big change in mindset. Did it affect your activities?
Well, there were quite a few.

Another person I met later on, Takumi Takemori of Up-Daun, a comedian and singer-songwriter, also gave me a valuable insight. I had a live show scheduled to consist of my own piano songs, and I wanted to sing Takemori's song ``Your hometown'' (Furusato), so I contacted him and he came to see the live show. . When Mr. Takemori heard my singing, he said, ``All your experiences up until now have been the fuel for singing, right?'' and ``You should sing more.'' I started writing lyrics and creating songs as a singer-songwriter.

This is the style of expression I've been looking for, and the hesitation and discomfort I've felt while working on the music I love for so many years has disappeared! That's what I'm starting to think.

I want you to grow strong through music.

Music class at an elementary school (Image provided by Minori)

―I heard that you are holding special classes at elementary schools as well. How did that come about?
When a hall called Midori Art Park (Yokohama City Midori Civic Cultural Center) was opened in Nagatsuta, there was a call for artists to join, so I applied and was accepted as a pianist. During my activities, I became friends with one of the staff members. After a while, that person was transferred to Kanazawa Ward, but he remembered me and asked me if I could teach songwriting classes at the elementary school.

Living today, we tend to think of music as something we receive, but in reality it is something we should create ourselves. At first, most of the reactions I received from the elementary school students I interacted with were, ``How do you create your own songs?''

-It's true that when we think of music, we tend to think of it as something we listen to, or learn and practice existing songs. What is a composition class?

There will be three classes in total, during which students will present the songs they have created (Image provided by Minori)

Depending on the content of your request, we generally offer a total of three classes.
In the first session, we use popular songs as examples to get a sense of how songs are structured, and then we discuss as a group the songs we would like to create. The second time, try to come up with lyrics based on the words you gave last time and put them into a melody. At the third time, everyone practiced and presented the completed songs. At the end, we often ask for feedback and perform a mini-live.

All the children were surprised and delighted, saying in unison, ``We never imagined we could compose our own songs.'' I don't think many people have the idea of ``composing a song,'' but anyone can do it if they take the first step. I hope that my class will serve as an experience of stepping into the unknown and will lead to other things as well.

- Your lessons are based on your own experience.
There was a very long period of time when I was unsure myself, and I think there are many people who are confused in the same way. I don't want the children who will be responsible for the future to think, ``This is just how adults should be,'' when they see adults giving up and thinking, ``This is all I can do.'' I want you to live strong and have hope. That feeling is connected to all of my current activities.

―Does the music school “Emuzu Music” that you lead also have a curriculum that is conscious of challenges?

Presentation of the music school “Emuzu Music” that I lead (Image provided by Minori)

At our classroom recitals, students can perform in their own preferred style. In addition to piano solos, some children also play in ensembles with siblings, family, and friends, and some play in bands with the support of professional bassists and drummers, playing the piano, keyboard, and singing.

We are actively involved in the management, and we have formed an executive committee consisting of people who are in the third grade of elementary school or above. At the meeting, we decide on the theme of the event and a song for everyone to sing in chorus, and we are in charge of this. The stage banners, program covers, and decorations were all handmade by the children. The executive committee will be in charge of the day's MC, venue announcements, and stage lighting.

For the past three years, we have been experimenting with a ``Children's Band'' as part of our recital project. Based on the concept of ``Let's just do it ourselves!'', we will form a band with only 5th graders and above who wish to perform, and perform everything from song selection, instrumentation, and stage configuration without the guidance of an instructor. I was truly moved when I saw the children who had been watching since they were toddlers in the audience watching the stage that they had completed with their own efforts.

Then, on March 31, 2024, we finally decided to step out of the recital and hold our first band live. The 11 students, who have experience performing in bands at recitals, are doing all the planning, management, and public relations themselves through trial and error. I keep coming up with fresh ideas that adults don't have, and I'm often surprised. You can watch for free at Machida's live house/jazz bar "INTO THE BLUE" from 15:00. Please come and see it.

-It's rare to see a live performance created by students!

"Emuzu Music" presentation where you can perform with professional bassists and drummers (Image provided by Minori)

At a typical recital, you perform within a given frame. Of course, we practice hard to achieve that goal, but I think that somewhere in our hearts there is a feeling that ``someone will do something about it.'' There are some children who rely on others from the beginning, hoping that adults will take care of them in the end, but I think that if they can get rid of that mindset, they will become even stronger. It is a child's privilege to be able to fail, and I want them to try with the peace of mind of adults watching over them, and to make it a good experience no matter the outcome. As an adult, I'm worried about leaving everything to my children, but I'm also really looking forward to seeing what happens when I leave important things to them without a limiter. I want you to become stronger while enjoying the unknown world. I hope that each person will grow while taking advantage of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their individual characteristics and abilities.

-It seems like it will be a good experience that will be useful even after entering the workforce.
We think about it ourselves, discuss it, and create it. I feel like this is a microcosm of what it means to live in society. I hope we can continue not only this time, but next year and the year after. It will be a good stimulus for the small children who see this live performance, and I think that by making them feel like they want to try it, we will be able to create a cycle in which we can continue to hold live shows like this in the future. . As you continue playing music for a long time, there will be tough times, and I don't think you can overcome them just by having fun. However, the memories of music that I had so much fun with when I was young supported me through the difficult times. I hope that children will develop an attitude of growing towards a bright future without lying about their feelings or giving in.

-I'm looking forward to the future of our children. Please also tell us about your future plans.
In addition to teaching music, I will also be actively working as a singer-songwriter. I would like to play and sing live in places I haven't been to yet. I'm looking forward to the time when I can have fun with everyone I haven't met yet.

Singer-songwriter/music school leader

Born in Saitama Prefecture. Graduated from Tokyo College of Music Piano Performer Course (Special Scholarship). 2007 Young Artist Piano Competition F Grade Silver Prize Winner. After graduating from university, while working as a pianist, he opened a music school called ``Ems Music'' in Yokohama. In 2018, he began performing live with original songs played and sung on the piano. They also focus on education, such as concerts at kindergartens and elementary schools, special classes in songwriting, live performances and workshops at commercial facilities, and content production. Provided the insert song for NHK BS Premium's "Shipatsu Monogatari". Author of the children's piano textbook ``I'm a Pianist.'' In addition, we produce background music for musical plays and short films, theme songs for companies and organizations, etc.

Official link sites such as Instagram and YouTube: Click here

Requests/inquiries to Minori: Click here

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