OSWEGO — The talents of a world-class musician will come together with a storied musical instrument when Mutsumi Tsuuzaki performs a concert titled “Recalling Xylophone Days: The Return of a Legendary Xylophone” at 7:30 p.m. April 11, in SUNY Oswego’s Sheldon Hall ballroom.
Tsuuzaki’s friend and former teacher, SUNY Oswego music faculty member Mihoko Tsutsumi, will play the piano, while the headline performer will play the Deagan Artist Special “Hiraoka” Xylophone No. 266.
The Oswego State Singers and pianist Michael Sova also will perform.
The program for the Ke-Nekt Chamber Music Series event promises a concert not only rich in works of Mozart, Haydn, Bizet, Takaha and others, but one with a vibrant — some would say historic — pre- and post-World War II backstory.
Xylophonist Y?ichi Hiraoka was revered in Japan and popular in the United States, where he lived in the 1930s, playing every morning on NBC radio in New York City.
But he was forced to return to Japan in 1941. A xylophone the late musician treasured has returned to America, thanks to Tsuuzaki, a multitalented instrumentalist who became enthralled with the xylophone and the artist in 2005.
A native of Japan, Tsutsumi taught Tsuuzaki in an aural skills class in 1986 at their mutual alma mater, the Horikawa Music High School in Japan. The teacher remembered the outstanding student, reconnected with Tsuuzaki 30 years later on Facebook and visited her last year in Japan.
“Mustumi told me that she wrote a book about a famous Japanese xylophonist, Y?ichi Hiraoka, and gave me the book,” said Tsutsumi. “While she was talking about him and his instruments, I felt her passion to play his xylophone. So, I asked her if she was interested in coming to SUNY Oswego to perform.”
‘At any cost’
It turns out Tsuuzaki’s parents had acquired one of Hiraoka’s legendary xylophones after World War II to present to the artist himself. When Hiraoka went back to America in 1962, he also visited the Deagan factory, where he carefully selected seven bars to extend the lower range of his xylophone.
That is the xylophone Tsuuzaki plays to this day.
“In order to bring Hiraoka’s xylophone to the United States, she spent hours and hours filling out different forms, contacting airline companies, and making new cases, etc.,” said Tsutsumi. “It was very challenging; however, she had said she would bring the instrument at any cost because she loves the xylophone!”
Tsuuzaki’s awards include the 67th Kyoto City Commendation for Distinguished Service in Education, the Osaka Cultural Festival Award and the Aoyama Music Award. Called “the world’s only concert xylophonist in the field of classical music,” she also plays marimba, violin, piano and other instruments.
Tsuuzaki lectures, writes and performs in an effort to reinstate the xylophone to its former position in orchestral music. In Japan, she is also well known for her collection of more than 600 antique kimonos and obis.
Oswego’s Tsutsumi herself has performed all over the world. She graduated from the Osaka College of Music as a voice performance major and studied opera at the Kansai Nikikai Opera Corporation in Osaka.
She trained under Shoichiro Tahara, winner of many prestigious vocal competitions. As payment for his mentorship, Tsutsumi accompanied all of Tahara’s students on piano. She has a doctorate in music education with an emphasis on choral conducting from Florida State University.
Among other pieces, Monti’s “Csárdás,” Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” 1st movement and Haydn’s “Cello Concerto No.1 C Major” 3rd movement will lead off the concert. The State Singers, with Sova on piano, will join for Stephen Foster’s “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.” The evening’s finale will be “Rhapsodie Japonaise” from the original music of Koichi Kishi as conceived by Y?ichi Hiraoka.
Tickets for Mutsumi Tsuuzaka’s concert are $15 ($5 for any student) and are available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2141.
Cash-only tickets will be available at the door starting at 6:45 p.m. April 11.
Parking is included in the price of a ticket and is available in the employee and commuter lots beside and across Washington Boulevard from Sheldon Hall.
People with disabilities needing assistance should call 315-312-2141 in advance of the performance.