For the Okadas, music is a family affair...
In the Okada family, I'm looking for sons! Brothers Shuichi and Kojiro Okada, a violinist and pianist, respectively, were both supported by the Safran Foundation for Music. A portrait of two virtuosos.
At the age of 5, Shuichi, the eldest, asked Santa Claus for a violin. "My parents, wine merchants, were fairly surprised because it was not part of the family culture," Shiuchi recalls. "A violinist had come to play in my school and I was immediately fascinated. The first time I ever touched a violin, it was very natural, as if the instrument was an extension of my body."
His younger brother, Kojiro, also tried the violin at the age of 5. "In the beginning, it was nothing serious, I just wanted to do the same thing as my brother," he explains. "But it didn't suit me. We had a piano in the house and I started to practice on it. It was a revelation."
The mandatory trip to the National Superior Conservatory of Paris for Music and Dance (CNSMDP)
The children of Japanese immigrants to France, Shuichi and Kojiro grew up among the vineyards of Bordeaux, where they were both tutored by renowned musicians. "I went to the Conservatory of Bordeaux where Stéphane Rougier, a famous violinist and violist taught, and he quickly advised me to go up to Paris," Shuichi recalls At the age of 15, he joined the National Superior Conservatory of Paris for Music and Dance (CNSMDP), in the class taught by Roland Daugareil and Suzanne Gessner, two professors and violinists. "My time at the CNSMDP enabled me to meet some great people, both my professors and also the other students who became friends. There, I also learned to play in front of an audience. Now, the stage is like a drug to me! I love so much to give concerts and share music with the audience." For a few months, he traveled back and forth between Paris and Bordeaux to continue his education. Eventually, the Okadas decided to move to the French capital in 2008. Kojiro then joined the City Conservatory of Paris (CRR) and, at 14, the pianist joined the CNSMDP like his brother, where he also studied for a Master's in chamber music.
The Safran Foundation for Music supports their studies
Shuichi obtained his first scholarship from the Safran Foundation for Music in 2016, which enabled him to buy a Sartory bow. "That bow completely changes the sound of the violin, which is much richer and makes it possible to have an impressive palette of colors! Thanks to that bow, I was able to set myself apart in prestigious competitions," he explains.
The Foundation also helps the brothers to continue their musical studies. One in Berlin (Germany), the other in Waterloo (Belgium), both virtuosos are enriching their experiences abroad. "After 8 years at the City Conservatory of Paris, I wanted to meet other musicians and have another vision of music. So I went to study in Berlin st the Barenboim Academy in 2019, as well as at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Waterloo," says Shuichi. "In 2019, I also went to study at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Waterloo, thanks to the scholarship given to me by the Foundation," adds Kojiro. "I'm now an artist in residence at the Chapel. Thanks to that experience, I've been able to participate, among other things, in the AntwerPiano Competition in Belgium, where I took 2nd place. The competition enabled me to meet other pianists and professors, and gave me many opportunities."
A shared passion for Beethoven
Since 2020 marked Beethoven's 250th birthday, both musicians led many projects based on the iconic composer's sonatas.
For his part, Shuichi recorded his first Beethoven-themed album with his string trio, Le Trio Arnold, on the Mirare label, which comes out on February 26, 2021. "Since all concerts were canceled, recording an album was the only thing an artist could do in 2020! I am very happy we were able to bring the project to fruition, since it was so dear to us."
As for Kojiro, he led many Beethoven-themed projects as a chamber musician and soloist. "My participation in the Folle journée in Nantes, and in the La Roque d'Anthéron International Piano Festival, where I played Beethoven sonatas, made me want to study his works more and record an album. Also, I will be taking part in the 2021 International Beethoven Piano Competition in Bonn," says Kojiro. "With my trio, I am also working on recording an album of music from Eastern Europe.”
A first concert "as a family"
In March, the Okada brothers plan to play their first recital together. "We are eager to make this project a reality!" they add. "We would like to play more concerts "as a family and support our little sister as she takes her first steps onto the stage!"
We told you, for the Okadas, music is a family affair!
The youngest sibling, Madoka, studies piano at the CRR of Paris, taught by Anne-Lise Gastald and is preparing for the entry course at the National Superior Conservatory of Paris for Music and Dance (CNSMDP), which takes place in February. "We would have preferred for her to choose the cello! We could have formed the "Okada" trio, but she found it was too heavy as an instrument..." they laugh.
The 16 year-old pianist's promising beginnings have drawn the attention of the Foundation, which is keeping a close eye on her career... Because Madoka probably has as much talent as her big brothers!
- © Safran
- © Cyril Abad / CAPA Pictures / Safran