Music Masters Course Japan, founded by world-renowned conductors Naoto Otomo and Alan Gilbert, offers full scholarships to talented students for a summer of personalized study and performance experience with master musicians in Yokohama, one of Japan's most exciting cities.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic, we were unsure whether we could hold MMCJ 2021, however, after MMCJ committee’s careful consideration, we have decided to hold MMCJ 2021 but with a great reduction in size. The details can be found in the Instructions to Applicant, but we regret we will only be accepting string quartet groups based in Japan. We are sorry for 2020 audition winners who looked forward to attending 2021 seminar.
We expect to open MMCJ 2021 application page on our website by the end of March, and the application deadline will be the end of April.
We look forward to receiving your application(s).
The deadline for application was on 30 April, 2021. Thank you.
June 28 (Mon) – July 4 (Sun), 2021 in Yokohama, Japan
June 28 (Mon) – July 3 (Sat) Rehearsal and coaching
July 4 (Sun) Chamber music concert of students
Otomo graduated from Toho Gakuen School of Music, and studied under Seiji Ozawa, Kazuyoshi Akiyama, Tadaaki Otaka and Morihiro Okabe. He participated in the Tanglewood festival where he worked with Andre Previn, Leonard Bernstein, and Igor Markevitch. He made his debut with the NHK Symphony Orchestra at age 22. Otomo also appeared in foreign orchestras such as the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra and Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. Following his opera debut in 1988, Otomo continued with a succession of highly acclaimed opera productions that include Orfeo and Euridice, Rigoletto, The Magic Flute, and Chushingura. He conducted Shigeaki Saegusa’s Jr. Butterfly in July 2006 during the Festival Puccini in Italy, and produced popular music concerts in the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan where he was the first Music Director (2004-2012). He received the 8th Akio Watanabe Music Foundation Award in 2000, and the 7th Hideo Saito Memorial Fund Award in 2008. An innovator, Otomo has created a new music scene where classical music and other genres collaborate.
Alan Gilbert was Music Director of New York Philharmonic between 2009 and 2017. He encouraged the development of two series devoted to contemporary music: CONTACT! and NY PHIL BIENNIAL. Gilbert makes regular guest appearances with orchestras including Berliner Philharmoniker and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Currently, he is Conductor Laureate of Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at J uilliard School. Gilbert will be inaugurated as Principal Conductor of NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester in September 2019.
Manabu Suzuki began playing the violin at age five, and studied under Aiko Suzuki, Chikashi Tanaka, and Koichiro Harada. He graduated from Toho Gakuen School of Music majoring in violin, then entered the school’s graduate program to study viola with Toshiya Eto. He went on to study with Hirofumi Fukai at Hamburg University of Music and Theatre. From 1993 to 2004 he served as the principal violinist in the Bruckner Orchestra Linz in Austria. In April of 2004 he assumed his current position as solo principal viola with Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. He has performed as a guest soloist and chamber player at numerous festivals including the Lucerne Music Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival. Suzuki also mentors young artists from around the world through his work with Indiana University’s Master Class, MMCJ and other international music programs. In recent performances, he has been introducing to Japanese audiences viola pieces that include the Japanese premiere of Ernest Bloch’s Suite for viola (concerto version) and Ivan Erod’s viola concerto.
Quartet Excelsior is one of the few quartets who has more than seventy performances a year throughout Japan. Hailed as “a delicate and graceful golden craft” at their debut concert in Germany, 2016 by Frankfurter Allgemeine (Germany), Quartet Excelsior has been the leader in classical and contemporary quartets.
On top of their subscription concerts which focuses on quartets by Beethoven, they have many projects such as “Lab Excelsior” which focuses on works after 20th century, and “Quartet Weekend” which is joint concerts with young up-coming groups. They also regularly perform abroad as well.
Quartet Excelsior is a winner of prestigious competitions, 2nd place Osaka Chamber Music Competition, Highest prize Paolo Borciani String Quartet Competition, and a recipient of Fresh Artist Award (Nippon Steel Corp.) and Hotel Okura Music Award, among many others.
Quartet Excelsior holds residency at Urayasu Music Hall since 2017.
Violins: Yuka Nishino, Haruna Kitami
Viola: Yukiko Yoshida
Cello: Hajime Otomo
I chose MMCJ because of the strength of the diverse international faculty and intense instruction, both individually and with chamber music. I had never been to Asia before, and MMCJ also offered a unique cultural opportunity. A friend and former MMCJ violin student, Tarn Travers, highly recommended the festival to me.
MMCJ was well organized and professional. Of all of the summer festivals I have been to, MMCJ students were the hardest working and most dedicated, giving everything for high-quality rehearsal and performance experiences. During my time at the festival, I felt completely immersed in chamber music, both rehearsing and eating every meal with my fellow musicians.
Concerts were an exciting way to celebrate our efforts, and Japanese audiences are among the most appreciative and knowledgeable about music.
Since the students and faculty come from all over the world and speak so many different languages, everyone works hard to understand and communicate with each other. It becomes a very close community, almost like an artistic laboratory. I felt free to experiment with different musical ideas without fear of being judged or criticized- it’s a safe environment for trying new things.
Every single faculty member at MMCJ was so generous, giving me lots of helpful advice, both for violin techniques and broader musical ideas, as well as inspiration and guidance for building my career. All of the music-making was at such a high level, and I was able to learn many pieces in great detail. Because of my job now as an orchestral musician, getting to play alongside the experienced MMCJ faculty members in the orchestra turned out to be a very valuable part of the festival.
Bergen was the home of composer Edvard Grieg, and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra shares his music with the world through our many recordings and international tours every year. We are one of the world’s oldest ensembles, founded in 1765. I also have a leadership role in the Bit20 Ensemble, which specializes in new music, and I am active in a string quartet with other orchestra members, including my wife, a violist. This past year, we have been performing Beethoven op. 132, a piece I first learned while at MMCJ!
Since everyone brings their own ideas and experiences to the festival, be flexible and accept that there is always more than one right way to do something. There are lots of great ideas out there, and nobody has all the answers. Try new things, and have a great time!
I expected that MMCJ would be the most exciting challenge among the other music seminar/festival particularly in Japan, considering the participants with many different cultural backgrounds and the quality of the faculty members.
It was a very refreshing and exciting period of time to share most of the time of the day with talented participants from many countries as if I was in a different part of the world. We were totally devoted to lessons and rehearsals to survive several different languages (mainly in English). Faculty members were all enthusiastic in coaching chamber and orchestra music as well as in exchanging views on daily life. I was so much impressed and influenced by their precious advices, and I have come to grow up in my music life.
MMCJ is a unique seminar program with international flavor as if we are participating in an overseas festival. It is a small community with a limited number of participants to share and learn closely communicated with faculty members just like a family. We were able to dedicate ourselves all day to creating our own music. All the programs were well planned and organized to perform chamber music by the faculty members, chamber music by students, and also orchestra jointly by students and the faculty.
I became acquainted with nice musicians through the experience with MMCJ, with whom I have been in contact with others, inviting each other to join the concerts in each country and communicating intimately even now. During the rehearsals at MMCJ, we struggled to understand others to get harmonized to seek for higher level of chamber music. I was much moved by the final performance of the orchestra with my colleagues and faculty members, and I became serious about playing orchestral music.
For Japanese participants, I would like them to learn as much as possible from internationally first-class artists under unique atmosphere having participants with different cultures and languages. For foreign students, it is a very rare occasion and fantastic opportunity to participate in music seminar/festival in Japan and to be exposed to unique life, culture, nature and people in Japan different from other western and oriental countries.
Q. School exams will conflict with some MMCJ classes. Is it necessary to attend class everyday from start to finish?
A: Excused absences may be granted as long as it doesn’t adversely affect classes or rehearsals. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, so please let us know in advance.
Q. My schedule won’t allow me to stay at the hotel the night before MMCJ’s kick-off date. Is it permissible to arrive on the first day of classes?
A: The first day is orientation so it’s important for students to attend if at all possible, especially new students. Depending on the circumstances, permission may be granted for a student to arrive a little late. Please consult with the MMCJ office as soon as possible if you anticipate a late arrival.
Q. It’s my understanding that MMCJ covers airfare, but I heard there’s a limit on cost. What exactly is the cost limit?
A: Decisions on airfare cost limits are made each year based on point of departure. This information is published in April.
Q. I live in Yokohama. Can I commute from home?
A: We do not allow students to commute from home. One important component of the MMCJ program is having students live together. For this reason we require all students to stay at the designated hotel.
Q. What is the cutoff date to meet MMCJ’s age-eligibility requirement?
A: Students must meet MMCJ’s age eligibility requirement as of the program’s commencement date.
Q. It’s my first time in Japan. I’m worried about finding my way to the hotel.
A: No worries, all participating students will get detailed directions in advance.
Q. I have dietary restrictions; will this be a problem?
A: We can provide meals that meet your dietary restrictions. Special accommodations can be made for meals taken at the hotel. You also have the option to eat out at local restaurants. Upon acceptance to our program, students who have dietary restrictions should notify our office as soon as possible.
Q. Will the school pay for medical expenses if I injure myself or get sick during my stay in Japan?
A: For health issues that aren’t serious we can provide basic medicines free of charge. However if the services of Japanese medical professionals are required, then the student will be responsible for covering all associated medical costs. For this reason we urge students to purchase travel health insurance coverage prior to arrival. We also advise Japanese students who are currently not covered by Japanese medical insurance to obtain coverage.
Q. I want to spend time in Japan before MMCJ classes begin (or after they end). Will this be a problem?
A: MMJC will arrange for and cover all lodging expenses incurred during the entire duration of the program. Students are responsible for any lodging arrangements and associated costs incurred before or after these dates. If students choose to spend time in Japan outside these dates, we ask that they let us know their schedule along with contact information. Whatever the length of stay, MMCJ’s round-trip airfare cost restrictions still apply.