Brian Mitsuhiro Wong, an American of Japanese and Chinese descent, won the "Grand Prix" award for achieving the highest scores on his teaching examinations from the
Sawai Soukyokuin Koto Conservatory in Tokyo, Japan in July 2006, surpassing many Japanese native candidates.
In his examinations for his "Koshi" instructor's degree on the koto, Brian competed in vocal and instrumental performances; playing classical and contemporary koto works, shamisen (a 3-stringed Japanese banjo) performance, a written test on Japanese music theory and music history, sight reading, sight singing, and tuning accuracy.
Brian continues a brilliant legacy of koto performance in America that spans three generations, and has roots in the internment camps of World War II. His mother, Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto, also a koto teacher and musician, taught Brian how to play the koto from the age of 4. At the age of 16, Brian attended a concert by one of the top koto performers in Japan, Madame Kazue Sawai. Sawai Sensei’s performance was not sedate as traditional koto performers, but dynamic and exciting, as her expertise and highly technical performance ranged from classical to modern. She rarely sat at the koto, and sometimes even danced around it. Brian was inspired by her performance, and decided to continue his studies on the koto from Sawai Sensei at an invitation from her to become an “uchi deshi” or live-in student at the Sawai Soukyokuin in Tokyo, Japan.
In June 2007, Brian also earned his Bachelor of Arts in Music Composition at California State University East Bay, CSUEB, Hayward, California. He has written works for mixed Western instrumentations as well as koto compositions. Brian is also an excellent jazz saxophonist. His musical mentors growing up were Khalil Shaheed and Ravi Abcarian at the Oaktown Jazz Workshop, jazz band instructor Dave Eshelman at CSUEB, and Kazue Sawai and Hikaru Sawai, the head masters of the Sawai Soukyokuin Koto School. Brian states the mentors in his private life are his mother and father.
At his young age, Brian has already made some very notable appearances and performances. In the summer of 2005, he performed jazz koto with the CSUEB Jazz Ensemble at the Montreux, Umbria and Vienne Jazz Festivals in Europe. He has assisted his mother in teaching koto classes at UC Berkeley, and has introduced new compositions written by himself and other young composers from UC Berkeley and CSUEBH. Brian has performed at Yoshi's Jazz Club as a featured artist with the Murasaki Ensemble, with the CSUEB jazz ensembles, and also with the Oaktown Jazz Workshop with special guest Pete Escovedo. He has performed in concert with koto masters Kazue Sawai and Hikaru Sawai. Brian says his life mentors are his mother and father.
How to solve other people's problems...Brian’s theory:
"My dad is a very wise man. He was once a real estate agent, and always said the thing to remember when you're dealing with real estate is how to solve other people's problems.. That's how I look at music. Music can help people solve their own problems, because it helps them to develop sensitivity towards their own feelings and emotions.”