1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Haruka Horii. I'm a violinist, composer and arranger.
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I'm a Japanese citizen who's spent 15 years of my life so far in the US, including a portion of highschool, college, grad school and five years of professional adult life here.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? I don't have any professional musicians in my family.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. Moving to the US for the first time at age 16 posed a tremendous challenge to me initially, both from not speaking the language to the change to my social life as a highschooler. But I've gained so much from that experience and it's toughened me in certain ways as well as it has given me optimism, flexibility and a certain level of comfort even when I'm diving into an unknown territory.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? Even though I've lived in the US longer than in Japan now, I identify myself more as a Japanese than an American, as well as an Americanized Japanese person. Musically speaking, I'm not particularly interested in Japanese heritage music or current pop cultures in Japan at this time.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? I started playing the violin at age 4 while living in Switzerland because my friend's parents, who were professional saxophonists and a vocalist, recommended to my parents that I should take up music since I had perfect pitch. Then I started taking lessons in piano and solfege, music theory and dictation from age 5 and 6 in Tokyo. At age 14 I had decided to enter a private music highschool in Tokyo, then at age 16 studied the violin with the Juilliard School professor and the piano with Manhattan School of Music professor while living in New York. I enrolled at the New England Conservatory to study the violin, but changed my major in order to take private composition lessons and to study improvisation, then eventually got a Master's Degree in Jazz Studies which encompasses both performance and compositional aspects.
6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? I was always encouraged to play music from a young age, but at age 14 when I had to decide on my academic path, I consciously decided I wanted to be a professional musician. My parents were always supportive of me going into music growing up. Though earlier in my adult life they had suggested I go into law or something financially more stable, since then they have accepted my determination to continue pursuing my career as a full time musician.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. A couple of years after I started getting hired to write string arrangements, I began contributing my arrangements to artists signed to Sony and Universal Music. 2 years after I had moved to Los Angeles, I got to work with the legendary producer and engineer, Mark Needham at his studio for The Airborne Toxic Event's album "Hollywood Park". I also got to perform with Disturbed at the Forum as a solo violinist. As a band leader, I took my jazz quartet to perform at the World Economic Forum in 2014, and my crossover string quartet I had founded won a 2nd prize at the International Chamber Music Competition held by the Chamber Music Foundation of New England. In 2019 I was chosen as one of the delegates for the US Japan Leadership Program which is the flagship program of the United States-Japan Foundation. (links. https://www.instagram.com/p/BtCcM9unq2D/?igshid=ufj2m4ww23v2 ; https://youtu.be/NHen9-9WsgY ; https://youtu.be/GdHjYtuhLow ; https://twitter.com/harukasmusic/status/527197124035760128?s=20 ; https://chambermusicfoundationofnewengland.org/ ; https://www.usjlp.org/news-details.php?id=6213 )
8. Describe to me your dream project. To travel more with my own ensemble.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? I think music is one of the least "racist" fields to work in. While I have noticed that there are no prominent pop stars of 100% asian heritage (unless you include k-pop stars who sing in Korean, and there are mixed race asian artists like Her, Norah Jones), especially in instrumental music, and in classical and jazz world, I don't see much racism/colorism against asians (e.g., when I was at the conservatory, close to half of the instrumentalists attending were either AAPI or from Asian countries). Outside of music, perhaps because I have not lived outside of cosmopolitan coastal cities like New York, Los Angeles and Boston, I've not actually felt much racism in this country, compared to other countries I have lived in Europe and the Middle East.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? When I listen to music, I don't really focus on the musicians' skin tones--music is music to me and what they look like doesn't concern me much. I have always loved Kyung Wha Chung's violin playing as I feel she has one of the best phrasing, timing and feel of any classical violinists'. I also think the pianist Hiromi is insanely talented.
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? I hope to live in a world where race and color of skin is not a component the audience focuses on, but a world where we are solely judged by our music that we create and the contents of our characters as MLK hoped. I do think it will happen eventually as more and more people become multiracial and distinct racial divisions blur over time.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Explore more musical genres earlier on. I didn't start learning about improvisation and composition until I was 19, and wish I had started earlier.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? String arrangements I've collaborated on for an indie band La Bouquet's upcoming album is coming out this summer. I've also been getting back to writing my own compositions for my ensemble.
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. I'm actually passionate about weight training in order to stay fit and healthy, both physically and mentally. I feel like this is something that's not talked about enough amongst musicians but it's helped me a lot personally to stay confident in myself, to keep pushing myself harder which makes me feel stronger mentally, and to stay sane in a freelance lifestyle.
Jammcard: Haruka Horii
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Photos provided by Haruka Horii