We had the good fortune of connecting with Makoto Ishizaka and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Makoto, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
If I am not I, who will be? This is the Henry David Thoreau Quote. Let me get straight to the point, the reason why I am pursuing an artistic career is I realized I love music and I thought I would like to contribute to society through music. And also, I realized that inside of my heart wanted to do a non-replaceable job.
Looking back, music was a special thing to me since my childhood. I had listened to many genres due to my parents and brother’s influence. Such as pop, rock, jazz, big band, classical, R&B, funk etc…These music made my soul tremble. And one day, I thought I also would like to perform and create such music. I started playing bass and took music theory class at the age of 13. However, I have chosen the path to live as an office worker besides pursuing to be a musician when I was 18. Because, I didn’t have the courage to progress that way, and there was no specific goal living as a musician at that moment.
After working at my first job for 3 years as a power plant operator through the 2012 to 2015, I realized at 21 that I had to pursue my dream in the music industry and take that risk. I had reached a good salary and career but it wasn’t who I wanted to become. There is a manual to maintain the power plant so I felt that the position of the first job was replaceable to anyone. It doesn’t matter who you are. At least for me, the job didn’t motivate my heart.
I had been considering my life at the time very carefully, like what moments make me feel happy and what things make my heart shaking. After deep consideration, I decided to take a risk of living as a freelance musician to pursue my own life. After I left the job, there was a big moment in my life. I have visited Monterey CA to see a 2015 Monterey Jazz Festival and I found a spark of my soul in the performance of Chick Corea Trio. At that moment, my goal is settled. The music in the festival was all authentic, and these arts certainly motivated people and it made their hearts warm on such a cold day.
After graduating from music education in Boston MA and Kobe Japan, I started my career as a bassist, composer/arranger in the field of jazz mainly. To be myself, and to not lose my heart, I will keep pursuing the path. And I will try to create art which makes people motivated.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am passionate about writing music which are a direct response to the surrounding environment, and they are based on the artist’s personal experiences. For example, my latest big band jazz piece called “Volcanic Eruption -SAKURAJIMA-” is inspired by the situation of the pandemic and an active volcano in my hometown. I really like to express natural phenomenon into my musical composition. Process-wise, it is a little complex to write music for an 18-person jazz orchestra but the fundamental idea is really simple melody, which most of the time comes from nature when I walk around a beautiful lake or see a pretty sunset. Before I took a music lesson, I didn’t have the skill to express and develop this idea. But now I can write a music score and share an idea of my head to musicians through the music sheet. I have always tried to resolve a task one by one and I think now I have a better skill to express my music than before.
After graduating Berklee College of Music in spring of 2020, the world was surrounded by the virus. Because of that, there was no choice to survive as a musician in the U.S. I decided to record an 18-people big band remotely and it was finally released. My band Makoto Ishizaka Jazz Orchestra won an award by a submission of the piece “Volcanic Eruption -SAKURAJIMA-” from DownBeat magazine which is famous as a jazz magazine in the U.S. This achievement was only the beginning of my music career but I certainly felt some progress from 6 years ago when I was an office worker.
Recently, I am working on creating new works, performing in all of Japan and also getting a new visa to work in the U.S. again. I am excited to connect with music and share thoughts in English with people from different cultures/backgrounds. I hope to collaborate with someone who is reading this article sometime.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I wish I could recommend my hometown Kagoshima where is southern most of Japan but I I would say the Kansai area for the recommendation spots because you can access to many sightseeing spots by short distance, like from Kobe-Osaka-Kyoto-Nara. In Kobe, you can enjoy beautiful illumination by the seaside and there are many sick vintage cloth stores. In Osaka, there are nice local foods such as Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, also you can find anything there because Osaka is the biggest city in west-side of Japan. Kyoto and Nara have many fascinating old constructions and towns. If you study the history of Kyoto or Nara before visiting, you will get twice or more fun from the tour. Personally, I like eating a variety of ramen in the area. Especially, I like Tori Paitan Niboshi Ramen in Kobe. (chicken and fish broth) If you have time to visit, enjoy the Kansai area in Japan.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First, I would like to thank my parents for supporting me in my dreams as a child and encouraged me to follow this journey. Another shoutout is for first mentor in Japan, Satoru Hidaka, who has supported my music education since I was a teenager. The fundamentals of music theory and basic instrumental techniques that I studied under his lessons still help a lot. And mentors at Berklee College of Music, Greg Hopkins:jazz composition teacher and Whitman Brown:bass private instruction teacher taught me not only musical knowledge but also musicianship through their usual behavior. I appreciate it to all who are supporting my life and this music journey. Thank you.
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