Santa Clarita Valley

April 30, 1995


"Internationally known musicians recognize CalArts student's talent"

By Sylvia L.Oliande/ Signal Staff Writer

Photo by Shu Tokonami
Valencia - A CalArts student has won the Best Jazz Soloist-College Award presented by Down Beat Magazine. Hideaki Tokunaga,28, said he didn't find out he had won until he picked up a copy of the monthly magazine and saw his name in it. "I thought they'd at least call me or somehow notify me"

He said he was surprised that he'd received the awards, which he won for a recording of jazz standards, including a track on a CalArts compact disc. "I know many other great musicians at scholol," he said. "I felt like they had not turned in their work or they would have won. I'm not being modest; that's just fact."

David Roitstein, director of the CalArts jazz program, said Tokunaga was being modest. "He's a great musician, a really serious musician, and I was glad to hear that he had won. Whennever he's around you always know something good is going to happen." Roisten added that the awards is prestigious in that students from over the world submit their work and the pieces are judged by internationally known musicians, "who know what they are listening to." What it means is more recognition for his work on a really high level," he added.

Tokunaga said he has been playing the guitar for 16 years. He learned the instrument from his mother, a music teacher in his native in Japan. His family, due to his mother's influence, was very musically inclined, beginning with his older brother and sister, who are about 10 years his senior.

My mother taught them to play classical music and they hated it. When I was born, my father told her not to teach me," Tokunaga said. Obviously, she ignored his request, which is why he believes he stuck with the instrument when his siblings gave it up.

He grew up listening to rhythm and blues and popular Japanese music, and eventually started getting into jazz. Tokunaga said he came to the United States in 1985 and settles in New York, playing restaurants and with an organization called Music Under New York, which arranged for musicians to play in subways. After getting married, he follwed his wife, a movie sound engineer, to Hollywood.

He said he had heard about CalArts in New York and was glad to receive scholarship to study there. "There were a lot of talented musicians in New York that had come here. I heard good things about it." he said. Also, two students involed in CalArts' Community Arts Partnership won awards from Down Beat the Outstanding Jazz Instrumental Soloist-Performing Arts High School category.

Anand Bennett and Dante Pascuzzo won for recordings done while they attended Los Angeles High School of Performing Arts. Bennett is now currently a CalArts student and Pascuzzo has been accepted to the music program, Roistein said.

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