I think it's important to have mentors in your life. It's different from relationships with friends or family members, because although they support you just the same, they can also guide you when you truly need a direction. And perhaps knowing that in your heart is a unique kind of security.
My mentor is Paul Meisen. He is hands down one of the most important Flutists of our time. As a former principal flutist at Hamburg State Opera & Bavarian State Opera, and a former professor of music at the University of Music in Detmold & in Munich, he has worked with all the heavy weight musicians in the 20th century classical music industry, and has also produced countless world renowned flutists worldwide.
I met him in 1996 at a competition in Tokyo where he was invited as a guest judge. I was only a senior in high school at the time, trying to decide whether to continue my studies in Tokyo or move to New York to study at Juilliard. After I won that competition, he told me that he was coming to teach Flute at Tokyo University of the Arts and that he would be willing to teach me! I immediately decided to stay in Tokyo.
I was extremely privileged to study with him for all four years of college. He became my mentor, and that didn't change after I graduated from college and moved to Germany for grad school, nor after I moved back to Japan, nor after I eventually started my new life in the United States. To this very day, he still remains to be my teacher, my mentor, my source of inspirations. I can confidently say that truly everything I know, and everything I am as a Flutist, came from him. The way I play, the way I teach, and the way I approach music and life in general. There are so many great things he taught me over the years, and although some resonated with me immediately, while some took years for me to understand, they have all left a positive marks in my heart.
In recent years, as I have begun to teach more and more often, I have really come to realize just how important his words were. He told me a few years back, both jokingly and lovingly over wine, that I was "the most talented" as well as "the laziest" student he had ever had. I laughed with him, but I couldn't help but wonder,
"Had I been a more studious, more hard-working, just like the musicians at the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra, would I have learned more?"
While I certainly have feeling of regret over some choices I made as a youth, (something I am sure many of you can relate to) there is certainly no way for me to change my past. And though I was lazy, I still learned a tremendous amount from Mr. Meisen, not just in terms of musical lessons, but life lessons as well. His words still continue to influence me as I carry his words of wisdom deep within my heart. Here are a few wisdom from Mr. Meisen I would like to share with you today:
"Transfer knowledge into feeling to be a great performer. Transfer feeling into knowledge to be a great teacher." ~ Flexibility in using both sides of the brain is vital.
"Learn other instrumental parts to understand your part better." ~ Understand others and collaborate. Things can't just be about yourself. No man is an island.
"You have to be your hardest teacher." ~ No explanation necessary. We are all responsible for our own learning, and it's up to us to push ourselves. This is where I failed when I was studying with him.
"Think, Think, Think, and Forget!" ~ Face both music & life seriously. Always be curious to experience trial and error, but more importantly, when the time comes, have enough courage to let go. Know that everything you've tried and experienced will stick and nothing will be wasted.
As a teacher, I have been excitedly passing on his many teachings to my students. There was one person in particular who really processed his ideas immediately, straight into her heart, much like I tried to do so many years earlier. And that was Nana, my current business partner. I used to be her teacher! When I saw her face light up, I knew my job as her teacher was done, and it was time to team up with her to further share & spread the things we learned together! I think the beauty of Mr. Meisen's teaching method is that often, his ideas not only improve a musician's playing but also transfer into great life lessons, which will help us accomplish what ever our hearts desire us to do. Hence, Music Beyond.
Another VERY wise person I know said, "Money doesn't last forever, you can't take it with you once you die. But there are certain things that do have lasting impacts on generations after generations. Great compositions of classical music like Bach, or wisdom and good messages that are shared." Who said that? Yoshio Aomori, Nana's dad!
I sincerely hope our teachings will have a lasting impact even to the smallest numbers of musicians we work with. Because then, that could create a ripple effect in the generations to come, long after we are gone. And that tiny possibility keeps me going and believing in Music Beyond!