At a time when music schools abound and musicians from a young age are more than capable of playing multiple instruments, depending on sheer talent alone to set oneself apart and make a name in the industry is no longer enough. In order to make it big and be successful these days, one needs an extra edge that will captivate the audience. One such artist is Meg Okura, the multi-instrumentalist from Japan who is currently based in the United States. In this issue, Top 10 of Asia speaks to the talented jazz violinist cum composer about her profession, family and time management.
“I knew I wanted to become a composer when I was 6 years old. But my mother said no. So I worked hard as a classical violinist, became a concert violinist, went to Juilliard, studied classical composition, got my degrees, then started learning jazz because I just wanted to become the best possible musician I can be. Studying jazz is the only way to become the highest possible calibre of musician as a whole in terms of the understanding of music- harmony, rhythm, and improvisation as a performer,” says Meg Okura in almost a single breath when asked of her earlier journey in life.
She effortlessly exudes passion for her music and it is hard not to be infatuated by her lyrical stories. Trained as a jazz violinist and ehru player, Meg has been hailed as ‘The Queen of Chamber Jazz’ by online jazz portal All About Jazz for both her talent and on-stage presence. Besides performing, the composer is also the musical director of the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble and editor of Chording to Meg, where she explores topics of culture, religion and ‘all that of jazz’.
Meg admits that inspiration is of essence for any artist, no matter the instrument or craft. “I want to leave a mark on earth as a human being through my musical career and compositions and recordings. I cherish the life that I have today, and I want to make the most out of it with the cards that I was dealt with. I need to work as hard as I can while enjoying the journey,” elaborates Meg on what inspires her to push forward every day.
As someone who doesn’t believe in a balance between professional and personal life, the Juilliard School graduate imperatively prioritises time management instead. “As a musician, there are times that I am on the road, have a deadline for compositions or grant applications, or a really important performance. I constantly need to shift my focus, while struggling to keep up with my other responsibilities and maintaining my skills as a jazz musician,” admits the internationally-recognised award-winning musician, who is also the mother of three-year old Naomi. “To me, being a mother is similar to having a very important project that I cannot abandon, and I enjoy it very much. It forces me to pause from my music, and go on an adventure into countless wonders of New York City,” she says.