Master of the Keyboard
When Kiyoshi Tamagawa learned he had been selected to receive the 2013 Award for Outstanding Collegiate Teaching Achievement from the Texas Music Teachers Association, he was surprised because the award usually goes to faculty members at larger schools.
But the recognition came as no surprise to his colleagues in the Music Department at Southwestern.
“Kiyoshi really is extraordinary,” said Michael Cooper, a professor of music who has worked closely with Tamagawa. “We’re fortunate to have him.”
Tamagawa was nominated for the Outstanding Collegiate Teaching Achievement award by the Austin District of the Texas Music Teachers Association. The award is given to one university music faculty member annually in Texas and recognizes “outstanding success in teaching at the collegiate level in music performance, composition, theory, history or any combination.”
“In a state that so strongly supports music education, this award carries a lot of weight and is a distinctive honor,” said Jason Hoogerhyde, associate professor of music and chair of the Music Department.
Tamagawa has been a member of the Southwestern faculty since 1992. He started playing piano at age 9 – which is late for most professional pianists – but by the time he was 13 he had already won his first competition. He received his bachelor’s degree in music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and his master of music degree from Yale University School of Music. He completed his doctorate in musical arts from UT-Austin and taught at UT for several years before joining the Southwestern faculty.
Tamagawa is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (NCTM) – a status that members of the Music Teachers National Association can earn by submitting a portfolio of accomplishments and activities related to professional development and student achievement.
A few years after he began teaching at Southwestern, Tamagawa was asked if he would be willing to accompany the distinguished violinist Eugene Fodor while he was in Austin to perform with the Austin Symphony and visit local high schools. That led to a nine-year collaboration that resulted in more than 30 recitals and a CD of violin and piano music titled “Witches’ Brew.” Their performances took them across the United States as well as to concert halls in India and Mexico.
More recently, Tamagawa has performed with cellist Evangeline Benedetti and clarinetist Stanley Drucker in a concert that was part of Drucker’s 60th and final season with the New York Philharmonic. He also completed a tour of China and Taiwan with Southwestern faculty cellist Hai Zheng,
Tamagawa’s next performance will be a Sept. 17 faculty recital at Southwestern that will feature works by Mozart, Schubert, John Adams and Samuel Barber. He will also perform the same program at Weatherford College, Western Connecticut State University and Stephen F. Austin State University.
Tamagawa said performing helps him in his teaching. In addition to teaching studio piano, he teaches a music theory course each semester. His experience teaching at Southwestern has led to articles that have been published in American Music Teacher, American String Teacher, American Suzuki Journal and Keyboard Companion.
“As a teacher of music theory, Kiyoshi is well known for being not only rigorous, but also extraordinarily articulate in communicating complicated concepts to young minds,” Cooper said. “And the piano students of his whom I’ve known as performers have commented on his effectiveness in teaching both intellectual discipline and sensitive musicianship.”
Meredith Orf, a 2008 graduate who is now teaching private piano lessons herself, is among the students who have worked with Tamagawa over the years.
“Dr. Tamagawa’s example continues to inspire me in my experience with my own students, especially when it comes to keeping my standards fairly high for their mastery,” Orf said. “I also admire the fact that he continues to be a skillful performer as well as a teacher, and it reminds me to keep challenging myself even though I spend a lot of time breaking things down for beginners.”
Paul Glasheen is among Tamagawa’s current students.
“One nice thing about taking lessons with Dr. Tamagawa is that he accommodates all student’s goals,” Glasheen said. “I never feel as though the quality of instruction I receive depends on whether or not I intend to be a professional musician one day, as he is. It’s always about how I can be a better musician, and how I can be ready for any future I choose to pursue after my graduation.”
Indeed, Tamagawa said many of his students have gone on to other careers such as law or medicine, but still enjoy music as part of their lives. David Li, a 2010 graduate who majored in music, is currently in the process of applying to vet schools.
“Professor Tamagawa was a great teacher,” Li said. “He was very encouraging and insightful. There were many times when I would hit some sort of road bump, and he would always figure out a way of getting me past it. Another thing I remember well about him was his vast knowledge of piano works. Whenever it got close to the end of the semester and we’d be discussing potential future works for me to get started on, I would toss out a few ideas − like maybe a Chopin scherzo or a Rachmaninoff prelude, and he would always respond with something like, ‘Oh yes, that piece…. I remember playing it in high school.’ He always had tremendous knowledge of music, and no matter what I was playing, he could help me on it.”
Vicky Chang-Mishra, a 2007 graduate who majored in piano performance, is now working as a physician assistant in Dallas.
“Even though I am in the field of medicine now, the skills that I learned from Dr. Tamagawa will always stick with me: perfection, stamina, and attention to detail,” she said. “I still keep playing the piano, and I don’t ever want to stop.”