Nobuko Asano took a long look at the highly competitive classical music scene of her native Tokyo and then took a long trip to the far friendlier classical music scene in Lawrence.
"I knew Kansas was a rural place, and the people here are less competitive,'' said Asano, a graduate student in percussion performance at Kansas University. "In Japan, people are very competitive with each other in the music world. It's not very friendly.''
Asano will play the marimba as a soloist in the upcoming concert of the KU Concert Wind Ensemble at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Swarthout Recital Hall.
A native of Hachioji, Japan, Asano will perform Paul Creston's "Concertino for Marimba and Band" with the ensemble. The group is also scheduled to play three works by Giovanni Gabrieli as well as the "Petite Symphonie pour instruments a vent" by Charles Gounod and the "Symphony for Brass and Percussion" by Gunther Schuller.
ASANO SAID she became interested in percussion instruments when she was in a school with a good concert band. In Japan, many schools have concert bands, and they get the opportunity to perform in festivals and competitions.
In the process of learning the basics of percussion, she picked up the marimba, an instrument that resembles a xylophone. She said she plays it because she likes its variety of tones. But she particularly likes the timpani, or kettle drums, on which she can provide an orchestra with some dramatic beats.
"I like the deep sounds of it," she said. "Most people think of percussion as the rhythm, but it can be the melody as well.''
Asano graduated in 1988 from the Musashino Academy in Tokyo, a music school with about 5,000 students. Musashino is very difficult to enter, she said, but most of the students there aren't interested in percussion.
"IN JAPAN we need to work hard to enter the school," Asano said in a recent interview. "Everyone takes private lessons to pass the entrance exam. Half the students are studying piano as a major and about 25 percent are studying voice. The rest of the school includes composition and other instruments.''
Fortunately, the school has several band opportunities, and Asano said she pursued them, studying both percussion and music education. She came to KU in 1989 to study with George Boberg, a KU professor of percussion, and is pursuing a master's degree. She's also spent the past two years mastering English. Her music education keeps her busy.
"I don't have time to do much outside classes," she said. "I like singing, and I like cooking.''
She said she's looking forward to a career in music.
"My ideal is to play timpani in an orchestra," she said. "Also, I want to be a solo performer on the marimba or a percussion instrument. You can play it anywhere, because people like it a lot.''
The 38-piece Concert Wind Ensemble is conducted by Robert Foster, KU director of bands, and James Barnes, professor of music theory and composition and associate director of bands.