We had the good fortune of connecting with Akira Nakano and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Akira, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
When we first formed the Los Angeles Inception Orchestra in 2017, we had to find a lane to go down, as there are so many amazing nonprofits in LA doing music. But many of them were teaching students how to play instruments and were graduating kids to college who found themselves behind in composition and music theory. This is what we have done since, mentor junior high and high school composers in writing original music for orchestra and teaching them the theory behind it.
Music is an international language. And especially now as we find ourselves quarantined, music can be healing. And the best musicians, who also find themselves out of work, are now available to mentor and teach. Zoom helped as we could spread music education nationally — both with our students and finding mentors. And taking the advantage of the time to create and innovate new ways of recording and communicating and teaching, those are the positive by products of being forced in the virtual platform.
Our recent collaborations with the Young Musicians’ Foundation finds our ear training, sight singing and music theory classes (all important pieces of composition) expanding to younger musicians. We love that our program remains cost free to the community providing access to composers and musicians who may not otherwise be able to afford music education beyond any public school programs.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
When we first thought about forming a nonprofit in Los Angeles, everyone asked us what we were going to do that is different from the many successful music nonprofits already established in LA. In our due diligence, we found that many orgs were beginning to graduate students to college, but they were behind in composition and music theory, because the organizations only focused on how to play instruments — and well.
The other half of this equation is how do you get students to be interested in music theory? In my music training at the Colburn School, I had classical piano, theory, chamber music, orchestras, etc., but that composition portion was missing. And so the answer to everything for us is start with the creativity, composition and improv and then back the music theory in.
Following the Beyond-the-Box Education model, we mentor as a group with an incredible slate of rotating guest musicians and composers and our staff private mentors each composer once a week.
We have seen incredible growth from many of our students. Some, for whom music was a just something to add as a thing they did on their college application, to now seriously considering composition as a career.
We also started an ear training/sight singing/music theory from the beginning program for our younger students. But this has also been a draw for students and organizations outside the cohort which has enabled us to expand our footprint and delivery.
As we have grown, the caliber of mentors keeps getting higher, and it is incredible to provide the opportunity to our composers to work with the music industry’s finest.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Los Angeles has such incredible culture and diversity, and without Covid, I would try to mix everything up. Eggslut at Grand Central Market (actually anywhere to eat in GCM), a play at the Ahmanson or Taper, a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, a tour of LIttle Tokyo…. dinner at Geoffrey’s in Malibu…. or better the best French crepes known to man at “La Table de Sophie” in Westwood (they have amazing emapanadas too – the chef is from Argentina)…. a Dodger game at the stadium, or a Lakers game at Staples… a hike above the observatory… some time at the beach – Santa Monica, Hermosa or Manhattan…. a walk around Silver Lake, some jazz at Vibratos… a drive over Mulhulland Drive… roller coasters at Magic Mountain… tacos in Boyle Heights… korean BBQ in K-Town… sushi at M’Naka And then to the gym because they’d have to work off all the amazing food.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Our program does not succeed without the incredible mentoring talent who have either volunteered or come in way below their normal rate. Last year our cohort met with thirty leading musicians and composers in the industry who believe in the development of our incredibly talented composers. Our team mentors are led by Karen Elaine (Executive Vice President) with Jack Aron, Amy (Aizhou) Liu, Kate Bacich, Blythe Schulte and Lucas Brooker. And our rotating mentors from this current program are Preston Scales, Genevieve Vincent, Tom Hiel, Claire Morison, Emer Kinsella, Maksim Velichkin, Ethan Moffitt, Joey Vranas, Rebecca Olason, Ric Becker, Ashley Jarmack, Jonathan Sacdalan, Jonathan Stehney, Brad Dutz, George Ko, Hee Jin Yoon, Van-Anh Nguyen and Dana Lyn. Our partnership with the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers (ASMAC) has brought mentors Gayle Levant, Milton Nelson, Charles Fernandez, Nathan Wang and Kim Richmond. Javier Oviedo and Jean-Pierre Schmitt of the Classical Saxophone Project not only mentored, but also joined our Board. Previous mentors include Molina, Clinton Johnson, Tommy Faragher, Jeness Johnson, Terence Young and Ben Phelps. And shout outs to Michael Sushel, Miyeko Heishi and Heewon Kwon and all our Board members.
And none of this would be successful without our young composers.