Akiko’s parents aren’t musicians, but that didn’t stop them from wanting her to play an instrument from an early age. So when she was five, she began the violin in her public elementary school (imagine that happening today)! Before long, she and her mother were taking the train into New York City every Saturday to spend the day at the Manhattan School of Music’s pre-college program.
We’ll follow Akiko from there to the Juilliard pre-college program, through her years of lessons with legendary teacher Dorothy DeLay. In those days, she never knew which famous soloists (along with their parents) might be waiting in the hallway for their lessons, as the hours dragged toward midnight. As her fellow students jockeyed for position, Akiko felt less and less like competing for Ms. DeLay’s favor. She finally “hit a wall” with the Paganini concerto, and decided to look ahead toward an academically satisfying college life.
Harvard (at least in those days) loved students like Akiko, who had dedicated their lives to one elite pursuit, so at age eighteen she found herself in Cambridge. But she found the atmosphere there to be just as competitive as the one she had left! Luckily she found great friends right away, so she fully enjoyed her time at Harvard, while still wondering if she was truly done with the violin.