Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Hometown: Williamsburg Native to Perform at Kennedy Center with Conservatory Students

Marika Yasuda of Williamsburg will play Sunday at the Kennedy Center (Submitted)
Marika Yasuda of Williamsburg will play Sunday at the Kennedy Center (Submitted)

Williamsburg native Marika Yasuda will take the stage at the Kennedy Center this weekend.

The pianist, a junior at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, will be playing as part of the Kennedy Center’s Conservatory Project, which gives a public platform to students at the country’s music institutions. The free concert will be 6 p.m. Sunday in the Terrace Theater.

The program was started at the center in 2004, and Oberlin students have participated in all 10 years since its inception.

Yasuda – who was born and raised in Williamsburg – chose Oberlin for its faculty and commitment to undergraduate musicians. She started playing piano at age 4. After graduating from Hampton Roads Academy, where she balanced academic coursework with her musical obligations, she knew she wanted to focus on piano in college and attend a conservatory.

The chance to play at the Kennedy Center came through Oberlin’s annual audition process, for which she was recommended.

Yasuda plays in a faculty-advised small ensemble named the Pierrot Sextet that focuses on contemporary repertoire. The group of six musicians – including flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and Yasuda on piano – was formed specifically to play new music and will perform a piece called “Variations for Sextet” by Oberlin graduate David Schober.

Yasuda thought the audition would be good practice for the group, but was not expecting the chance to play at the Kennedy Center.

“I had no idea. I thought it would just be a really great opportunity for the group to put ourselves out there,” she said.

She said she feels extremely lucky to have been chosen to play at someplace as renowned as the Kennedy Center. Yasuda said it is also surprising to be playing contemporary music and with an ensemble, while most people would imagine piano performance in a classical, solo context.

“I think playing as a group is also a completely different and special experience,” she said.

Yasuda is double majoring in piano performance and vocal accompaniment, and plans to pursue graduate school and continue to collaborate with other musicians.

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