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.


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MMCJ2024 Program

July 4 (Thu) – July 16 (Tue) Chamber music rehearsals and lessons
July 11(Thu) Start 14:00 Faculty Chamber music concert
July 17 (Wed) Start 18:00 Chamber music concert by the students
July 18 (Thu) – 20 (Sat) Orchestra rehearsals and lessons
July 21 (Sun) Start 19:00 Orchestra concert 


Naoto Otomo, Conductor
Founding Artistic Director
Naoto Otomo
  • Honorary Guest Conductor of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor Laureate of the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra
  • Music Director of the Ryukyu Symphony Orchestra

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.

Nobuko Yamazaki, Cello
Nobuko Yamazaki

Nobuko Yamazaki was born in Hiroshima and graduated from the Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo, where she studied under Hideo Saito, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, Kenichiro Yasuda and Mari Fujiwara. She also studied under Pierre Fournier in Geneva for two years on an Overseas Scholarship funded by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs.

Upon her return to Japan, Ms Yamazaki embarked on a highly successful career, giving many recitals and chamber music performances with many orchestras including a 10 years recital series (2007-2017) and a recital of complete Suites by J. S. Bach in 2019. Besides regular engagements with every leading orchestra in Japan, Ms. Yamazaki has been invited by renowned European orchestras such as the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and played with the English Chamber Orchestra in the prestigious opening series for Suntory Hall. She is also the producer for “Chamber Music Connect to the Future” at Philia Hall, a concert series which features young talented musicians and chamber ensembles.

Ms Yamazaki is a winner of many awards, including the Muramatsu Award. She is Professor at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and Toho Gakuen Daigaku. Ms. Yamazaki plays on a 1641 Hyeronimus Amati.

Manabu Suzuki, Viola
Manabu Suzuki
  • Solo Principal Viola of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra

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
Quartet Excelsior

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




  • 2009, 2010, 2011
  • 1st Violinist of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Norway

With so many summer music festivals to choose from, why did you ultimately decide on MMCJ in 2009?

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.

What was your overall impression of MMCJ?

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.

What do you think is the most attractive or unique point about MMCJ?

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.

What key lessons did you take from your experience at MMCJ?

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.

Could you give us some insight into Bergen and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra?

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!

What advice would you give to new MMCJ students?

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!



  • 2004
  • Cellist of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Japan

With so many summer music festivals to choose from, why did you ultimately decide on MMCJ in 2004?

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.

What was your overall impression of MMCJ?

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.

What do you think is the most attractive or unique point about MMCJ?

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.

What key lessons did you take from your experience at MMCJ?

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.

What advice would you give to new MMCJ students?

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.

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