Risa Okina – Piano Teacher

Specializing in Classical Piano Performance
Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance, Toho Gakuen School of Music

Master’s Degree in Piano Performance, Indiana University
Master’s Degree in Music Theory, Temple University
Pursuing Ph.D. in Music Theory, Temple University
Also offers instruction in Japanese

RisaPROpicI am a professional classical and collaborative pianist and music theorist. I am from Japan and I am currently working on my Ph.D. at Temple University, where I have also been serving as a teaching assistant since 2013. I completed my master’s degree in music theory at Temple in 2015 and was a recipient of the William A. Singer Memorial Award for academic excellence. I also received the Dr. B. Stimson Carrow Tribute Award for a continuing graduate student who demonstrates outstanding pedagogical potential combined with a high standard of performance ability and broad comprehensive musicianship.

I also hold a baccalaureate degree in piano performance from the Toho Gakuen School of Music in Japan, and an M.M. in piano performance from Indiana University South Bend where I studied with the world renowned pianist Alexander Toradze. I joined the Toradze Piano Studio in 2010 and performed regularly as a studio member at Toradze Piano Studio Recital series during my master’s program.

Since moving to Philadelphia, my focus has shifted to performing as a collaborative pianist and teaching. I like to foster an interactive learning environment to help my students achieve their goals. I believe that students learn best when they are free to explore their musical interests.

When did you begin playing Piano, and why?
I began playing piano at the age of 4. My parents took me to one of the local music schools in my hometown, and I have been playing ever since!

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
When I was in the middle school, I picked up trumpet because I joined a concert band. It was a good experience since I was able to play in a large ensemble, which you don’t get to do if you only play the piano.

What are your personal goals as a musician?
My personal goal as a musician is to share my musical experience with other people (students, audience, readers etc.) through any musical activities, including teaching, performing, writing and presenting my work. I always hope that my musical output reaches other people, making them think about music and provoking their musical response.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
I remember that when I was struggling with playing a very low note with ff (or fff) marking with my weakest fingers, my piano teacher at that time told me that fingers are not only an option; we can use a fist in order to make a big sound! —It blew my mind.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
“You have to play not only from your heart, but also from your mind—your playing has to come from your entire body.”

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
It was when I tackled one of Brahms’s Piano Sonatas for my master’s recital. The entire sonata lasts about 40 mins. It was very challenging not only technically, but also with maintaining my concentration and stamina throughout the performance.

What is your biggest musical achievement?
I guess this can be the same answer as above; my master’s recital was one of my biggest musical achievements in my life.

Favorite thing about teaching?
My favorite thing about teaching is being able to see students get very excited when something finally has that breakthrough moment. They always look so happy and it makes me happy!

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Never give up. It feels time-consuming and feels like you are not improving or getting better, but there is always a moment when you feel like you finally get it. You just cannot see it, but it always comes to you.

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc.
Become a Brahms expert!