Scholarship Support from Japan

President and CEO of Suntory Takeshi Niinami (center) congratulates Berklee’s Tomodachi scholarship recipients Shun Kumagai (left) and Takeru Saito.
President and CEO of Suntory Takeshi Niinami (center) congratulates Berklee’s Tomodachi scholarship recipients Shun Kumagai (left) and Takeru Saito.
Steve Wilkes

Berklee’s relationship to Japan dates back to 1955 when Berklee founder Lawrence Berk awarded a scholarship to Japanese pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi ’57 to attend Berklee. From that point forward, Berklee’s popularity among Japanese musicians has grown. In addition to Akiyoshi, other notable Japanese alumni include Sadao Watanabe ’65, Makoto Ozone ’83, and Tiger Okoshi ’75. Over the years Berklee has conducted faculty clinics and concerts in Japan and invited music schools in Kobe and Tokyo to join the Berklee International Network (BIN). Today, the largest cohort among our international alumni resides in Japan.

Two exciting programs offering scholarship support to Berklee students from Japan have recently emerged. They are the U.S.-Japan Council’s Tomodachi Suntory Music Scholarship and Jikei Corp.’s Ukifune Scholarship for students attending BIN partner schools in Japan.

Tomodachi means friend in Japanese and the mission of the U.S- Japan Council’s Tomodachi initiative is to foster young Japanese leaders who are committed to strengthening U.S.–Japan relations and possess the global skills and mindsets needed to contribute to and thrive in a more cooperative, prosperous, and secure world.

The Tomodachi Suntory Music Scholarship Fund creates opportunities for young Japanese musicians to study at Berklee, Juilliard, and the San Francisco Conservatory. Established in 2013, the fund provides support for two Japanese students to come to Berklee each year. It is preferred but not required that applicants be from Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, the three prefectures affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Six students are currently attending Berklee with support from the fund. They are Shun Kumagai ’16 (saxophone), Takeru Saito ’18 (piano), Kumpei Iki ’19(clarinet), Yuta Yamaguchi ’19 (trumpet), Gen Yoshimura ’20 (drums), and Eri Chichibu ’20 (piano).

In the spring of 2015, Jikei Corporation acquired the Koyo Conservatory, a BIN partner school. Jikei Corp. owns nearly 70 trade schools throughout Japan and seven of them focus on music education. In June and November of 2015, a team of Berklee faculty and staff members, including Camille Colatosti, dean of institutional assessment and graduate studies; Jason Camelio, director of global initiatives; Steve Wilkes, a professor in the Percussion Department; and I visited Koyo Conservatory and Jikei’s music schools in Nagoya, Osaka, and Tokyo. We met with the leaders of Jikei and the directors of each school to evaluate curriculum and discuss deepening the Berklee–Jikei relationship.

In April 2016, Berklee President Roger Brown traveled to Osaka to speak at Jikei’s convocation and meet with its president, Dr. Ukifune. They signed a formal agreement of partnership and awarded the first Ukifune scholarship to bassist Maasaki Saito, who attended Koyo Conservatory. Saito met Jikei’s requirements that scholarship recipients complete two years of study at a Japanese BIN partner school and apply the scholarship to completing their degree studies at Berklee.

The college is grateful to the US-Japan Council, Suntory and Jikei Corp. for their support of Berklee’s tradition of fostering the dreams of young Japanese musicians.