By Tori Bachman-Johnson ‘12
Once upon a time two musicians met over Beethoven, eventually fell for each other – and, despite a cultural gap and an undisclosed age difference, are still in the midst of a beautiful love story.
Sunday (Nov. 8) at 3 p.m., music-lovers may hear the husband-wife team of Mami Hayashida (a Georgetown College piano professor) and Daniel Mason (the Concertmaster of the Lexington Philharmonic and, Professor of Violin and Head of the String Department at the University of Kentucky) in the College’s John L. Hill Chapel, playing the fourth event of the Tilford Concert Series. The concert program features a Bach sonata and Schubert sonata.
You are also likely to see a future addition to the family…on the way. “Yes, I am twice as thick as I usually am,” admitted Mami, who is expecting this spring. Laughing, she added “Now I’ve got to choose a dress I can get into for Sunday.”
Their relationship actually started about six years ago at UK. Mami was attending the School of Music and Daniel was heading the String Department. The two knew each other vaguely as friends, but didn’t truly hit it off until they began rehearsing together.
A Beethoven sonata for Piano and Violin first brought them together, with Mami at the keys and Dan playing violin. Both had played with many musicians before, but as Mami explained, it is rare to find another musician that one truly enjoys rehearsing with, and that shares one’s vision for a piece. While rehearsing the sonata, she found one of those musicians in Dan.
“I knew every note of the violin part and somewhere in my head, I had an ideal version. For musicians, once in awhile we meet people that play in a way that is so close to how we feel. I thought, if I was a violinist, that’s the sound I would want to produce,” she said.
As they got to know each other, their rehearsals ran longer and longer, and time spent together afterwards increased as well. A few minutes of conversation became half an hour, half an hour became an hour, and soon the two were cooking meals together on a regular basis.
Music certainly was (and is) a priority in both their lives, and musical compatibility was an essential ingredient in their budding romance. As Dan described it, “In the process of learning the Beethoven piece, we found each other.” But it wasn’t just this musical compatibility that attracted the couple to each other. The pair shared a love of reading, a sense of curiosity, and liberal ideology.
Yet there were also some major dissimilarities mixed into the equation. Mami alluded to a notable age difference between the two as a barrier, but neither she nor her husband are sharing specifics. “If you can guess after seeing us at the concert, maybe I’ll tell you,” Dan laughed.
Not only that, but culturally, the two are literally worlds apart – Dan grew up in Ohio, while Mami is a native of Tokyo, Japan. One might guess that these cultural differences could create barriers between them, but Daniel said this is not at all the case. “Being married to someone from another country is a little like constantly traveling…It makes life more interesting.” And there was no cultural shock – by the time they met, Mami had been living in the United States for about 20 years, and both Mami and Dan had traveled extensively.
Now the two perform together frequently, and over the years, rehearsing together has become just another part of the domestic routine. Mami might ask “Should we rehearse tonight?” in the same way another wife would ask “Whose turn is it to do the dishes?” Even the traditional excuses apply – for instance, “I’m too tired to rehearse.” In fact, others would find it surprisingly boring to watch the husband-wife team rehearse.
The twist comes when another musician is involved. “If we rehearse with another person, I’m a little more aware of the fact that my husband is there,” said Mami. She explained that in strictly domestic rehearsals, it’s easier for the two to be direct and honest with each other. There’s no sugar-coating involved. “I don’t have to say, ‘You sound great, but…,” she said. “I can say, ‘That’s too loud. Your rhythm is wrong.” Yet this blunt style doesn’t apply when others join the duo. “I don’t want to make the other person uncomfortable,” she said. To make matters more complicated, Mami and Daniel might hypothetically disagree with the third musician about the interpretation of a passage, but they don’t want to gang up on said musician.
Perhaps more intriguing than their rehearsals, at least to an outsider, is one of their favorite games. The couple typically listens to classical music on NPR, and between the two of them, they know and recognize thousands of songs. While driving together, or at home with the radio on, a guessing game commences. Mami said that around 80% of the time, they can name the song title and composer, and for another 15% of songs, can make a pretty good guess. For the last 5%, the game gets serious. The two will attempt to narrow down the possible pieces and composers with a series of observations – “The instrumentation is too thick to be this composer,” “The phrases are too long to be that composer,” “It’s too chromatic to be him.” Very rarely are the songs a mystery to the couple.
“We really enjoy the mental challenge,” said Mami. As for the winner of the game, Dan said that it was definitely Mami – “She’s much better!”
Some casual music patrons may find this game intimidating, and Mami admits that her taste in music in conservative, but she does appreciate a good Simon and Garfunkel song, and says Dan is a fan of Bon Jovi. And while the concert program for Nov. 8 may be strictly classical, it will still be accessible to a modern audience.
According to Mami, putting together a program is a bit like designing a meal, complete with an appetizer, dessert, and main course. One piece might be “heavier” (like a cheeseburger) or more complex, but it will be followed by a lighter piece, so as not to cause indigestion. Listen for the play between the piano and violin in Schubert’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in A Major, a collaborative piece in which the two instruments trade off the melody. The exciting, ethnic-sounding “Tzigane” for Violin and Piano will showcase effect on violin that will be new to some audience members, such as pizzicato, when the strings are plucked with fingers instead of played with a bow.
Mami looks forward to the chance to perform on the new Steinway piano – though she played it briefly at GC’s Opening Convocation, she feels this hardly counts. Most especially, she looks forward to the piano “blooming.” As she explained it, “It takes two years for a new piano to really settle and bloom.” As the new piano settles, the tone can change, and gradually improve. “When you buy roses, they aren’t open yet, and that’s what you want – eventually they bloom.”
This fall’s Stephen Tilford Memorial Concert Series marks the fulfillment of the dreams of two generations of Music professors at Georgetown College – Daniel Tilford and his son, the late Stephen Tilford. The five free events showcase the two recent, magnificent acquisitions – a Steinway Concert Grand Piano and a Johannus Organ – that bear the Tilford name. The series finale is 3 p.m., Nov. 15 featuring organist Glenna Armstrong Metcalfe, the organist/choir director at Georgetown’s Faith Baptist Church. She also teaches music at Scott County’s Anne Mason Elementary School.