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Satoshi Okamoto

Bass

Biography

Satoshi Okamoto was an assistant principal double bassist in the San Antonio Symphony for eight years and a member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra for a year before joining the New York Philharmonic in September 2003. He received his master’s degree from The Juilliard School, and a bachelor’s degree from Tokyo University of Fine Arts. An eight-time Aspen Music Festival participant, he won the festival’s bass competition twice, in 1993 and 1997. He also became a finalist of the International Society of Bassist Solo Competition in 1997, and the Izuminomori International Double Bass Competition in 2001. As a chamber musician, he is a member of Bateira trio and La Stella Quattro di Bassi. His teachers include former Philharmonic Principal Bass Eugene Levinson, Paul Ellison, Yoshio Nagashima, and Osamu Yamamoto.

“When I was 16 or 17 I had to decide which exam I should take — whether to focus on regular college or music. I changed my decision once a week for two months and then decided to go to music school.”

Interview with Satoshi Okamoto

THE FACTS: Born in Tokyo, Japan. Bachelor’s degree, Tokyo University of Fine Arts; master’s from The Juilliard School. Teachers include former Philharmonic Principal Bass Eugene Levinson, Paul Ellison, Yoshio Nagashima, and Osamu Yamamoto. Two-time winner of Aspen Music Festival’s bass competition; finalist at International Society of Bassists Solo Competition and at Izuminomori International Double Bass Competition. Prior to the Philharmonic: assistant principal bass, San Antonio Symphony; New York City Ballet Orchestra. At the Philharmonic: Joined in 2003.

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: Playing with a music picture book that my mother made for me. I remember falling in love with the music from Hansel and Gretel — it was my bed-time music. I began studying the piano with my mother, and at age three I went to the Yamaha Music School. I was serious about the piano until I was 12, when I got into pop music and rock and pop bands. In high school I went back to classical music and took up the bass. At that point, it was the best instrument to play for a professional career.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN? When I was 16 or 17 I had to decide which exam I should take — whether to focus on regular college or music. I changed my decision once a week for two months and then decided to go to music school.

MOST INSPIRING COMPOSERS: Mozart and Prokofiev

WHAT WOULD YOU BE IF NOT A MUSICIAN? A school teacher. I like to teach kids about music.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS WITH THE ORCHESTRA: I remember the first run-through of Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel; it was one of my first subscription concerts and was unbelievably good. With Alan Gilbert, I thought Mahler’s Second Symphony, at the beginning of the 2011–12 season, was very touching. Martinů’s Symphony No. 4, which Alan led right before he became Music Director, was eye-opening.

IF YOU COULD PLAY ANOTHER INSTRUMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Viola

WHAT’S IN YOUR MP3 PLAYER RIGHT NOW? A song by Japanese pop star Aiko, and Chopin piano concertos; these pieces are so useful in quieting my daughter!

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF WORK? Hiking, watching basketball, and spending time with my wife, Chieko, and our 15-month-old daughter, Hana. Also, I have a chamber group with flute and viola called Bateira Trio. We are asking some composers to write original music for us. I’ve never made commissions before, so it’s a new and exciting experience for me.

As of April 2012

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