Tomo Fujita Hits It Out of Fenway Park

Lesley Mahoney
October 9, 2009
"It was simply amazing. I never dreamed of this," Tomo Fujita said of playing the national anthem at Fenway Park. He hails from Kyoto, Japan, a sister city to Boston.
Photo courtesy of the Boston Red Sox

The charge: Play an emotion-packed, 90-second, unaccompanied guitar solo of the "The Star-Spangled Banner" in front of an audience of nearly 40,000. No pressure, right?

Guitar Department assistant professor Tomo Fujita delivered, and rates his performance before the October 2 Boston Red Sox game among his most memorable, deeming it his "shortest and biggest gig ever." "It was an amazing experience," he said. "It was a very special moment because everyone stood up and took their hats off. It was almost like I was playing for a ceremony."

For the climactic moment, Fujita wielded his 1992 Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster—his "No. 1 guitar" that he purchased to celebrate the birth of his first son 16 years ago. In preparing for the gig, Fujita was careful to respect the melody of the national anthem and leave enough room for the crowd to sing along; his wife, a singer, coached him in this regard. "I didn't want to show off so much as a guitar player. I wanted my guitar to sing."

Fujita, whose influences include blues and gospel, channeled a bit of Jimi Hendrix (who performed the national anthem at Woodstock) with an overdriven guitar tone and Whitney Houston (who did the honors at Super Bowl XXV) with a nuanced, vibrato finish.

Not only was Fujita proud to represent Berklee at Fenway Park, but the Kyoto native also felt a personal connection with the Sox's Japanese line-up. "For some Japanese players, it's a dream to come to America and play baseball. The same was true for me as a musician when I came here 23 years ago. There's a bit of a similarity, just different jobs," he said.