Yurie Mitsuhashi Puts the Dance back in Music for Elementary Students in her Hometown

17 year-old violinist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Yurie Mitsuhashi (Show #205) explored the relationship between music and dance with second through sixth grade students at two elementary schools in her hometown of Fort Lee, NJ this spring.

Yurie Mitsuhashi by From the Top, Inc..

Yurie performing on "From the Top" in Waco, TX

She shared a wide range of music, portraying dances from many different cultures and time periods, and allowed plenty of time for the students’ insightful questions and comments. Her goal was to share with the students how music can tell a story and how they can enjoy listening even more when they explore those stories and use their imagination. Yurie shares more about the event:

“There’s nothing more pleasing for children to see than a musician with a grin a mile wide. It shows them that they’re in for something fun and interesting rather than boring and bland.”

See below to watch video recordings from Yurie’s program.

We asked Yurie a few questions about her project:

FTT: What was the experience like for you?

Yurie: The whole project, from start to finish, was a fun one. I definitely felt good after every applause, and felt even better when children asked curious questions and asked for hugs after the concert.

FTT: What was it like working with children that age? Were there any favorite moments?

Yurie: I had two different kinds of audiences in the two elementary schools. In one of them, my audience ranged from grades 4-6. In the other, my audience ranged from grades 2-4.

I really appreciated my young, but very well behaved, audience, and was often very amused by the questions they asked in the end. Perhaps one of best questions was: “How did you start playing the violin?” When I answered that my mother was actually the one who made all the decisions and that I hated being forced to play the violin, they gasped in disbelief; I was very amused.

Another memorable experience came after I played a Brahms Hungarian Dance and explained the Czardas. A girl raised her hand and exclaimed that she went to Hungarian school and knew the Czardas dance. Then, this girl actually stood up and demonstrated the Czardas for the entire audience. I had personally never seen the Czardas before, so this was a very interesting moment for me.

FTT: What did you learn from this experience?

Yurie: I love to work with children. They ask the most interesting questions, and they are very honest (they tell you when they don’t like something, but also really cheer when they really love something).

FTT: Do you think this type of experience can help your development as a musician? How?

Yurie: I discovered that it is perfectly okay to change your image while on stage depending on who you are performing for. In fact, doing so will make you connect with your audience better, and vice versa. This way, I feel that they can enjoy a performance better than when they see a distant figure on stage whom they’d never dream of talking to.

FTT: What advice would you give other musicians interested in doing a similar project?

Yurie: I would recommend keeping organized, opting for an interactive project, knowing your audience beforehand (so you can alter your project plans as needed to interact better), and putting a smile on your face. There’s nothing more pleasing for children to see than a musician with a grin a mile wide. It shows them that they’re in for something fun and interesting rather than boring and bland.

Yurie shared an excerpt from the script she wrote for the program:

“First up is the zapateado. The Zapateado is a dance of Mexican origin. As some of you might have noticed, the zapateado dance borrows its name from from “zapatos”: spanish for “shoes”. Why shoes? Because the dance itself is based upon percussive steps created by tapping your feet on the ground- it’s similar to tap dancing. You will hear this “shoe tapping” throughout the piece, but especially in the beginning, where I have [Demonstrate here]. Now, I hope you will imagine a dancer tapping his or her shoes while I play the Zapateado by Pablo Sarasate.”