PINGREE GROVE – At 18, Yukiko Fujimura made the bold decision to leave her native country of Japan for the land of beer and cheese in Eau Claire, Wis.
The move, which Fujimura admits was crazy, paid off.
Fujimura, 29, had been playing piano since age 3 under the tutelage of her mother, who was a piano player herself. She had traveled to Vienna at 14 to study with world-renowned performer Noel Flores.
Frustrated with music professors in Japan, she came to the U.S. for her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
In that environment, she found professors willing to work to perfect her piano style, which focuses on classical music.
She started working as an artist-in-residence for the Cambridge Lakes Learning Center – a charter school in Carpentersville District 300.
Her piano skills will be used in teaching private lessons to Cambridge students and other children around Pingree Grove in a music studio operated by Cambridge that opened this year.
She’ll also perform recitals, including a January concert that will benefit a field trip for Cambridge eighth-graders.
Fujimura sat down with reporter Stephen Di Benedetto to discuss her piano playing, world travels and transition to the Midwest.
Di Benedetto: What first drew you to playing piano?
Fujimura: My mom. She’s a pianist, and she taught a lot of students. It was just natural. She got me to play at a very young age and forced me to practice every day. I appreciate it now because without it, I wouldn’t have developed my technique.
Di Benedetto: As you grew up, did playing the piano become second nature to you?
Fujimura: It was. When I was in sixth grade, I auditioned to go to a music school, like a middle school and high school combined. I got in, and by the time I was done with the music school, everyone there was going to a conservatory. That’s where I decided I wanted to play piano as a profession.
Di Benedetto: How did going through the camp (in Vienna) help develop your piano skills?
Fujiumra: I had this great, great teacher. His name was Noel Flores. He was such a great influence. He believed in my talent, so that was definitely an encouragement. Whenever I start doubting myself, I go back and remember what he had to say about my performances, and I feel better. He taught me things that I never knew before. He taught me to focus on developing my pedaling skills and also how to train the fourth and fifth fingers. You use them to play the melody.
Di Benedetto: What motivated you to make the move from your home country to the United States?
Fujimura: I was looking at colleges in Japan, and I didn’t really want to study with any of the professors that I met. I didn’t want to stay with any of them. I got in touch with this professor at Eau Claire, sent her an audition tape, and she immediately responded. She told me the things that I could work on, and I was really impressed. So I decided to go. It was a crazy move.
The Fujimura lowdown:
Favorite piano player? Canadian pianist Glenn Gould
Favorite piano style? Classical
Random family fact? Her dad, Yasuyuki Fujimura, is an inventor and the original creator of the ionic air purifier. He has been featured in newspapers and magazines across the globe.