Title/Position: Assistant Professor, Keyboard Performance and PedagogyProfile:
What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments, to date?
I have been fortunate in having worked with some of the finest musicians, who also happened to be the most caring human beings as mentors and friends: Raymond Hanson, Anne Koscielny, Santiago Rodriguez, Kenneth Slowik, and David Soyer, to mention just a few. Perhaps more than any “highlights” from a performance venue, my proudest moment comes from the day I realized, quietly in my own house, that I was making a living strictly from enjoying making music.
Why do you enjoy teaching?
Practicing, performing, and teaching are all essential to my being. In wanting to help a student, teaching affords me the opportunity to externalize and verbalize my experience as a musician and human being up to that very moment. Each interaction with a student then adds another precious layer of understanding, in turn, helping me become a better teacher, performer, and person. I imagine this to be true for other types of teaching, but I cannot think of a better vehicle than music for such a quest.
What do you hope to pass onto your students?
An open mind and curiosity for life. There are many paths up the mountain. The “truth,” whether artistic or pedagogical, may come at any moment and even from the most surprising sources if one is open to it. A hard work, in this context, prepares the mind to be open. One can work hard and enjoy it at the same time!
• “A person hears only what they understand.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
• “I’m a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more luck I have.” (Thomas Jefferson)
What do you expect from students, and what can they expect from you?
A genuine love for music is the number one priority. If you are willing to work hard, I will work hard to help you. My goal is to help students develop individuality and independence through knowledge. I hope for all my students to continue to learn long after the completion of studies and enjoy sharing their talent through a variety of means most suitable to them.
Naoko Takao is Program Director of Keyboard Performance and Pedagogy and Assistant Professor at the University of Miami Frost School of Music.
A prizewinner of numerous competitions including the gold medal at the San Antonio International Piano Competition, Takao enjoys a multi-faceted career as a soloist, chamber musician, and a researcher. Recent performances include an all-Beethoven solo recital under the auspices of the SAIPC and San Antonio Symphony, a concerto appearance on Mozart’s K. 503, and recordings with the Smithsonian Chamber Ensemble, a long-time affiliation including a GRAMMY nominated album. She has appeared at prestigious venues such as the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, Lensic Performing Arts Center (Santa Fe), Caramoor, Le Domaine Forget (Canada), and Taipei National Concert Hall.
While known for her affinity to works by Beethoven, Chopin, and Rachmaninov, Takao is equally sought after as an enthusiastic advocate of newly composed music. She has premiered many works to high acclaim at organizations such as the Society of Composers and International Alliance for Women in Music. Her 2015 release of the complete 12 piano sonatas by Vincent Persichetti is followed by another album of his chamber music. She can be heard on Capstone, Centaur, Dorian, Elan, and Friends of Smithsonian labels. She was also a member of the Post Classical Ensemble and the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra as an orchestral pianist.
Combining her unique performance background with research, her research interest is on cognitive neuroscience and its application to piano performance and learning efficiency, which resulted in a winning grant proposal.