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Meet the Eastman School of Music’s student leaders

October 19, 2017
Naoki Toyomura and Seiji YamashitaNaoki Toyomura ’17, ’18E (T5), left, and Seiji Yamashita ’20, ’20E will serve as president and vice president of the Eastman Students’ Association, respectively, through 2018. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Naoki Toyomura ’17, ’18E (T5) balances a love of classical piano with athletics and a new business he’s started, Music Admit.

Seiji Yamashita ’20, ’20E is a jazz pianist with an avid interest in dogs, including his German Shepherd, Kenny.

They’re the Eastman School of Music’s Students’ Association president and vice president, respectively, and both say their main goal is improving communication between students and the Eastman administration. Elected by Eastman students last spring, they’ll serve through the 2017–18 academic year.

Toyomura, a native of Auckland, New Zealand, is a dual degree student, studying piano performance at Eastman and economics in the College, as well as a Take Five Scholar with a program called Japanese Language and Culture.

Yamashita, who is from San Jose, California, is also a dual degree student, studying jazz piano performance at Eastman and international relations in the College.

When did you get started in music, and what other interests did you develop along the way?

NT: I started playing piano when I was four and swimming when I was five. I played rugby until I broke my arm when I was nine or ten. After that, my mom said “if you want to do music, you can’t play rugby.” So I played soccer and tennis, and I swam. I was actually on the University swim team my junior and senior years.

SY: For me, it was mostly music. I was five when I started with classical piano, and I switched to jazz piano around high school. And I went to a lot of San Francisco Giants baseball games. We won the World Series three times this decade. It’s been a great run.

What’s been your musical career highlight so far?

NT: I’ve gone to a lot of places to give concerts, like Alaska, the West Coast, and Zimbabwe. But my highlight happened before I got to Eastman. While I was auditioning at various schools, I became involved in this international competition and ended up performing at Carnegie Hall. Once you’re at Carnegie, that’s hard to beat.

SY: Two things come to my mind. I got to study with one of my favorite musicians, Taylor Eigsti, who’s from the Bay Area, and I got to travel to China and do a tour with a bunch of my friends during high school. That was fun.

You both come from pretty far away. What did you think Rochester would be like before you arrived, and what has been the reality?

NT: I researched the school and the professors, but I didn’t know many details about Rochester. It’s great, especially if you have a car and can find other places in town, like tons of great restaurants.

SY: My dad actually was offered a job at Xerox (in Rochester) before I was born. He had this impression of it being very cold and didn’t take the job. But it’s not bad. The arts community is very strong in Rochester. It’s a great community in general.

Why did you decide to run for student government?

NT: Seiji writes for The Rival (a digital publication comprised of a network of college campuses), and he wrote an article comparing the dorm policy here with other institutions. It garnered a lot of of interest from Eastman students and the administration. We felt there were some things that needed to change, and to make that happen, we felt that we should run for office.

What do you hope to accomplish?

NT: We feel there’s been a lack of dialogue between the students and the administration regarding things that are important to students—dorm policy, food, where our money’s going, that kind of thing. We want to help improve that dialogue and advocate for students.

SY: I think, additionally, we want a more functional Students’ Association. If that means having reports, having student data and presenting it to the administration in a clearer way, we’ll do that.

Who are your musical idols, living or dead?

NT: Evgeny Kissin, Arturro Benedetti Michelangeli, and Herbert von Karajan are great. Martha Argerich and Vladimir Horowitz are amazing. So is Daniil Trifonov. Stephen Hough is this extremely well-rounded person who’s a pianist, a composer, and a poet.

SY: Bill Evans is one for every pianist. Taylor Eigsti is a big one for me, along with Fabian Almazan and Oscar Peterson.

What else would you like people to know about you?

NT: I’m very interested in business. My business, Music Admit, is a higher education music admissions company. I take people who come from overseas and help them find good schools and teachers. When I was going through the process, I knew the top two or three schools, but I didn’t know each school’s strengths or which teachers were better. My business helps in that regard.

SY: I really like dogs. I’m on pretty much every dog Facebook page you can find. I have a German Shepherd named Kenny at home. Dogs are a huge part of my life.

NT: I must say, his Snapchat and Instagram accounts do get pretty full of dog videos and dog photos.

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Category: Student Life

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