“At SMS there was an amazing balance between academics and music, and I think that was possible because of the faculty and the community here. I strongly believe that you really can’t find a school like this anywhere else.”
When Luiko Yoshimoto first came to Special Music School as a kindergartener, she loved the small class size and supportive atmosphere, and especially her piano teacher, Golda Tatz. “Especially now, looking back on it, I realize how amazing a school it is,” she says. ”The community was always so strong. My class became a family to me.” Luiko still keeps in touch with her SMS classmates and Golda, whose high standards prepared her for success at Professional Children’s School, where she attended high school, and Mannes School of Music.
“There is music everywhere here,” she says of SMS. “Everyone is singing. We had chorus classes and Eurhythmics and music theory. It was a really strong foundation.” The teachers inspired her and really cared about each student, she recalls. “It’s a public school and there’s no tuition; that in itself is just incredible.“
Luiko initially planned to become a concert pianist, but as she got older she began to re-think her career path. Music would always be an important part of her life, she knew. “I thought about working strictly with chamber groups or accompanying singers, or composing” she says. “I also really like to sing and have written some songs.” A Brooklyn Heights resident, she teaches music and also works as a teacher’s assistant at a daycare center.
At SMS Luiko especially loved performing in choral concerts and plays. “That was so much fun,” she recalls. She credits the intensive music training she received at SMS, and all the hours she’s spent practicing, with instilling dedication and perseverance. Music has helped her overcome obstacles large and small, and serves as an emotional pick-me-up after a bad day. “I honestly don’t know what I would do without music, which has helped me a lot as a person, not just as a student. Music is essential to my life, and I think it is to everyone’s lives whether they know it or not.” Luiko still considers her winning performance in the Kaufman Music Center Concerto Competition as one of the greatest performances she’s ever given. “That was a very big step for me as a performer and also as a person, overcoming my fears.”
In addition to all the tangible benefits of studying an instrument, music is just profoundly satisfying. “When I play something I really love, it’s hard emotionally because I get really worked up and it’s very overwhelming,” says Luiko, who is partial to Mozart, Chopin and Debussy. “It’s really hard to put into words. It’s a feeling that I don’t feel with anything else.”
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