We had the good fortune of connecting with Aiko Fukushima and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aiko, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I used to think that being successful was my goal – I wanted to sound, act, and look like someone successful. But after trying that path, I found that being myself and accepting who I am is the way to be. When I went back to Japan after being in the U.S. for a year, my former band manager looked at me and said, “You haven’t changed! Why aren’t you wearing a jean jacket with an American flag and look more American?” I used to think that being in a male-dominated industry, I had to look strong and be loud, but I finally realized that presenting myself and my work authentically is how it should be for me. Now I am fortunate to have a manager who believes in me and says, “Write the music you want and like and work on the projects you care about.”
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have written music for Fox, LifeTime, Hallmark, Audience network TV shows. As an orchestrator, I have worked on shows like Leaving Neverland (HBO) and blockbuster movies like District 9 and many others. The most exciting thing about writing music for films/TV shows is collaborating with amazingly creative people. I love building an atmosphere for the story to exist or for the characters to walk around in. For my most recent project, “Hank & Jolene”- an unusual love story – my goal was to surround characters with the music like molecules and not to direct the audience how to feel. In addition to collaborating with filmmakers, I founded a Japanese Children’s Chorus recently that has been a source of inspiration. I had no idea that working with children can be so addictive. It is hard to know what kind of impact my music has on the general public when I write music for films and TV shows, but kids’ reactions have no filter. If I don’t give 100%, they know – this is what I learned from raising my daughter. It is so rewarding to get to know kids (even on Zoom classes) and see them grow & shine. I love the moment that I find something precious in each individual. I can not describe in words how exciting it is to see a child who smiles or speaks up more as we get to know each other. It feels like I am finding treasures every time I see them. I am also discovering the power of music by performing with them in front of an audience. We were invited to sing at several events before COVID, including UCLA Terasaki Center’s New Year’s party this year. After each performance, some of the audience members came up to me in tears to tell me how touched they were by the performance. That was so striking and rewarding. After this pandemic’s arrival and finding out that one of my best friends is fighting cancer, I have been thinking – “What can I do to contribute to the world and the future?” I hope to help kids discover something special in themselves that they can be proud of and carry to their future. I truly enjoy working individually with children by helping them see their own gifts.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We are so lucky to live so close to beautiful beaches and mountains. The power of the ocean and the massive sounds of the waves cleanses my soul. I also love being at Disney Concert Hall and Hollywood Bowl to dive into the music played by LA Phil. It is such an extraordinary “norm” we have in this city!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shoutout to my husband Jeff and daughter Lina who are my ultimate cheerleaders. They always tell me never to give up. I’d also like to give a shoutout to my friends who became my family in LA. I love raising my child in my “Village” with those inspiring, fun & kind people. And last but not least – my family in Japan who always support & believe in me.
Personal photo by ©️Kaori Suzuki Hank & Jolene by Derek Shimoda