October 5, 2023

CIM Orchestra season opener holds special meaning for student conductor Jake Taniguchi

Jake Taniguchi in Kulas Hall with his mentor Victor Yampolsky
Student conductor Jake Taniguchi, left, looks on as his mentor, Victor Yampolsky, rehearses with the CIM Orchestra in Kulas Hall.

Jake Taniguchi is eager to conduct the CIM Orchestra next week, but not for the reasons you might think.  

It’s not that his program Oct. 11 in Kulas Hall is the orchestra’s season opener, or that it contains some of his favorite music.  

No, the source of his excitement is what the evening signifies. From first note to last, the concert will be a tribute to his mentors. 

“The whole night, it’s very sentimental for me,” said Taniguchi, a second-year Graduate Diploma student. “It’s a special program that I really put a lot of thought into. I’m so grateful for the opportunity.”  

Thought, of course, isn’t all that went into Taniguchi’s choices. Although his selections all support a theme of looking to the past, what’s really behind them are deep reserves of feeling and years of admiration, friendship, and artistic development.  

Nowhere is this truer than in Igor Stravinsky’s Apollon Musagète, the program’s finale. Taniguchi included it both because he loves the music and because it’s the favorite work of his former teacher at Northwestern University, Victor Yampolsky, who, as a young musician, witnessed Stravinsky himself conduct his masterworks in his Russian homeland after being exiled for almost 50 years. For that reason, he also arranged for Yampolsky, now 81, to join him in rehearsal at CIM.  

“It’s a tribute to him, to my teacher,” Taniguchi said. “His knowledge is not something you can put down in a book. He’s lived an incredible life.” 

The rest of the program pays homage to another pivotal figure in Taniguchi’s life: JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and a member of CIM’s visiting faculty. With William Grant Still’s Mother and Child and Four Novelletten by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Taniguchi said he’s honoring someone who inspired him to pursue music in the first place.  

Falletta became artistic director of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra just as the then-teenage Taniguchi was beginning to take music seriously, and her presence on the podium was galvanizing. Years later, at CIM, he finally met her and discovered “one of the most genuine, nicest, and most supportive people I’ve ever known.”  

“Since 2012, I’ve admired JoAnn from afar,” said Taniguchi, a native of Hawaii. “She was the first great conductor that I really got to observe. I’m so happy that through CIM I’ve gotten to work with her.”  

As if all that weren’t meaningful enough, Taniguchi is also excited for Oct. 11 to be conducting his fellow students, not a group of strangers. In this unusual context, he’s among friends, and the music they’re making reflects that spirit. 

“This is not conductor to orchestra,” Taniguchi said. “This is colleague to colleague, student to student. Everyone feels involved. I think it’s very special in that way.”  

The concert is 7:30pm Wednesday, Oct. 11 in Kulas Hall. Click here for free seating passes or to watch the performance livestream.