Former Andover Piano Instructor Mana Tokuno Stars as Guest Artist in Recital

Mana Tokuno has worked as an instructor at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School in Boston since 2008.
M.Callahan/The Phillipian

Mana Tokuno has worked as an instructor at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School in Boston since 2008.

For a single, tense moment, the hands of Mana Tokuno, professional musician and former Adjunct Instructor in Piano at Andover, hovered over the keys of the piano before launching into the rapid melody of Beethoven’s “Sonata No. 7 in D Major (Op. 10, No. 3).” Traveling up and down the keys at a speedy tempo, Tokuno wove her music with her emotions and her story.

Forrest Eimold ’18, an audience member said, “I was really amazed by the sensitivity she had to the music she was playing. It’s very unusual to hear someone play with such care and love for each note. It was wonderful to hear.”

Tokuno was invited by the Music Department to perform as a guest artist in last Friday’s piano recital held in Cochran Chapel. She performed two Beethoven sonatas and three Chopin pieces. According Tokuno, she selected her repertoire carefully, thinking about the audience she would be performing in front of.

“I think you have be completely in love with the music you are playing, all the time and every moment… I picked these composers today because, when I was working here, I felt that [Beethoven and Chopin] were the most popular composers. Then also, they were the composers who were very personal and able to put their raw feelings into their music,” said Tokuno.

Tokuno is now an instructor at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Mass., as well as an acclaimed solo artist with numerous awards and distinctions to her name. Born in Japan to parents of musical backgrounds, Tokuno picked up the piano at the age of six and immediately fell in love. However, she did not commit to the lifestyle of a professional musician until her mid-20s.

“[One] reason why [music is] special [to me] is because so many people spend time to really listen to each moment, and only the sounds exist, but somehow we feel communication among us. I feel that music starts to become tangible. We can see images, we can feel something, and we can tell stories… The idea of pursuing something like that was very personal to me in each stage of my life,” said Tokuno.

According to Tokuno, translating the music into a story she can convey is crucial to her performances. She says that, while countless hours go by sitting in front of a piano practicing, just as much time is spent studying the score and trying to discover the meaning behind each note.

“The most important thing [in performing] is to analyze the score and try to discover what the composers really meant. A lot of times you try to approach from the psychological point of view. You see some kind of indication on the score and then you always question: ‘Why was this written this way?’ or ‘Why is this written here and not there?’ ” said Tokuno.

Throughout her two-hour concert, Tokuno varied the dynamics, speeds, and moods of each piece. While playing the Beethoven sonatas, she created a unique atmosphere for each movement, transitioning from one section to the next with ease.

Terri Kelley, a local audience member and Artistic Director at the Lawrence Public Library, said, “I think Mana has a special gift for using her whole body and her whole mind and heart when she plays. It’s almost like she doesn’t even know where she is; she’s so lost in the music, and that brings the greatest level of technical skill and artistic expression… Her dynamics are just beautiful. She feels the music.”