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Music Can Be Universal According to Japanese Student Attending Berklee College of Music


Coming from Tokyo, Japan and not speaking much English, Mariko Ishikawa says being able to play music helped her communicate with other students at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. “Music is almost my life. Since I was little I grew up with music most of the time of my life and I have nothing else without music and I really think music is universal even the first time I came here I couldn’t speak really well English, but when we start to play and just playing chords and the melody we could know each other and what they are feeling and of course I can try to express my feeling not in English, but as a melody,” she says.

Mariko is a chord professional music major and already she has been at the college for two years. Before coming to Berklee, Mariko says there is a music school in Japan she attended, which helped to open the door for her to attend Berklee. “I knew about Berklee since I was in high school and really young and then I found out about the Pan School of Music and that school is not a university or a high school, but just a music school for two years,” she says. “They have a relationship with Berklee and the Pan School of Music they had an audition thing going on for an international scholarship so I applied to that school because of Berklee,” she says. “I thought it would be helpful for me if I studied a little bit about pop, jazz music theory even though I know about classical music theory I think it must be really hard for me to study everything from the beginning in English that is why I choose that school.”

As for campus activities, Mariko use to play in the campus orchestra. She says spending time concentrating on her on music goals and socializing with other musicians makes her experience at Berklee interesting. “I love Berklee because there are so many students from other countries of course from U-S, of course from Japan also and many, many other countries and they all love music and I can share having a really really good time with jamming and just music, hanging around talking about music and I could meet so many good friends, musicians and everybody is really willing to be a good musician and they study a lot and they practice a lot so they encourage me to be doing more of those things.”

There is one project Mariko is working on when she isn't studying...”I love to do playing in a recording session and I have no plans to do my own album, but actually I’m writing a song for Japanese traditional music and I am sending it to one guy whom I know and he is writing lyrics for this Japanese pop traditional thing and it is going to be on record I hope next year if everything goes well.”

Mariko says the culture differences from back home and here do vary and that adjusting to attend Berklee College of Music was not a problem, however she says there is one thing about American culture that required some adjusting to. “Well Japanese people are funny we are not as social as U-S people and in a class we are usually really quiet than Americans,” she says. “Sometimes some teachers don’t care. They kind of ignore us because we don’t speak up, but some teachers are really, really helpful. They try to communicate with us and it is not just about the school, but of course the cultural differences made me a little bit stressed out for a while,” she says. “I had a little bit of a hard time to get use to for example in Japan we take our shoes off in the house, but usually people here don’t and something like that really really small thing, but since I was really nervous when I came here those small things made me a little bit stressed out.”

Once Mariko is finished at Berklee College playing music or teaching are options she is considering. “After gradation I would love to be able to play in some famous people’s recording and also I love to teach high school kids or whatever or old people I love too,” she says. “I love to be the next songwriter or like track maker or so.”

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