Photo courtesy of TORANGE.US
by SARAH HANASHIRO
Every year, for as long as I can remember, my family would celebrate Christmas at my mother’s 80+ year-old, godmother’s house.
This party consisted of mostly senior citizens who talked about the “good ol’ days,” and parents who complain about their children. Though this may not sound like the most exciting party ever, I did not dislike these get-togethers but actually looked forward to them during the holiday season.
Yasuko-Nesan was a thorough entertainer; every year, there was a section in the printed party schedule called the “Hanashiro Hour” where my brother would sing songs with my dad as the primary source of entertainment for the evening. However, once I learned to talk, the baton was passed to me, and I was up there with my brother singing songs like “White Christmas” and “Joy to the World” in front of everyone.
My voice is bearable to say the most. However, despite my awkward, off-key performances, I never disliked singing in front of my family. I was praised for my enthusiasm, and was always encouraged to sing more. This was my first exposure to performing and music; the catalyst to all of my future musical endeavors.
Excluding glorious performances in my elementary school’s recorder band and the gratifying holiday vocal renditions, I began my music career in the sixth grade when I decided to pick up the alto saxophone in my middle school’s band program.
In the seventh grade, in order to broaden my musical horizons, I enrolled in the Saturday Conservatory of Music in Pasadena, where I began studying piano, violin, and took various music theory courses. Since then, to give back to those who have supported me, I spread happiness in one of the few ways I can—with music.
In my sophomore year, my friends and I formed a quartet and volunteered to play Christmas songs for the elderly at our nearby convalescent center which is now a yearly tradition. I didn’t think much of it, since I have been performing all my life, but to my surprise, the faces of the elderly watching us perform is a memory that is forever engraved in my mind. Their expressions resembled those of my family, the faces that first encouraged me to pursue music.
Being asked to play more after we finished baffled me; the pieces we played were elementary, and lacked the technicality that I associated with great pieces of music. But I realized music is not just about the mechanics of playing the instrument, but the intentions and emotion of the performers, which is why my family didn’t seem to care that I was not the most talented singer. I received the same satisfaction from volunteering at the convalescent center as I did at every “Hanashiro Hour” performance.
Unfortunately, Yasuko-Nesan passed away last year due to complications of old age. Over the past year, I have thought many times about the impact she has had on my musical endeavors.
Without the “Hanashiro Hour” tradition, I may have never taken up music; something that I have accepted as an integral part of my life.
I perform often because I believe that the gift of music is something that should be shared. Music has no language barrier; it is the common language that speaks to everyone. Being fortunate enough to create aesthetics, whether in art or music, is not a privilege that everyone has.
With all the hatred being spread throughout the world in the form of war, terrorism and racism, music acts as a pure medium; something communal amongst all cultures which can be used to spread positivity.
This month, I will commemorate the one year anniversary of Yasuko-Nesan’s passing with this column. Thank you for all of the words of encouragement and inspiration that you shared with me. I miss you Nesan, Merry Christmas.