The Music in Pyeongchang Festival recently played host to a rising star in the world of classical music – cellist Michiaki Ueno. The young virtuoso's performance brought an enchanting blend of music and nature to the stage, captivating the audience with his soulful renditions. Born in Paraguay in 1995, Ueno's musical voyage commenced at a tender age in Japan and later traversed through Spain, Japan, Germany and Belgium under the guidance of renowned mentors, including the illustrious Pieter Wispelwey and Gary Hoffman. In this exclusive interview, Ueno shares his inspirations, cultural influences, and the profound connection he feels between music and the environment.
Cellist Michiaki Ueno at Music in Pyeongchang 2023
(c) Music in PyeongChang 2023
Gen de Art: Can you tell us about your musical background and how you got started in the world of music?
Ueno: My family was quite musical – my mother was a pianist, and I grew up with two sisters who played the piano and the violin. Music was a constant presence in my life from a young age. I remember watching videos of renowned artists like the Three Tenors, Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras. But what truly inspired me was a video of Yo-Yo Ma performing the six Suites, known as "Inspired by Bach." His collaboration with ice dancing and the deep, resonant sound of the cello fascinated me. That's when I asked my parents if I could start playing the cello.
Gen de Art: Starting at such a young age, did you immediately fall in love with the cello?
Ueno: Yes, I was quite fond of the cello right from the beginning. I watched that video when I was just four years old and continuously asked my parents for a year to let me start playing. Eventually, I found a suitable instrument for kids and a cello teacher in my neighborhood, which made it possible for me to begin my musical journey.
Gen de Art: What drives your passion for music?
Ueno: The joy of making music is my biggest motivation. While not every aspect is easy or enjoyable, the magical moments on stage and the sharing of special moments with fellow artists and audiences bring me immense pleasure. These experiences fuel my passion for music.
Gen de Art: Could you share a pivotal moment that solidified your career choice?
Ueno: There have been many significant moments in my journey. Winning a competition was especially important as it gave me the attention and confidence to pursue a career in music. Each concert I perform is also a unique experience that reinforces my path.
Gen de Art: How has your cultural background influenced your musical journey?
Ueno: Although I am Japanese by origin, I was born in Paraguay, lived in Spain, and studied in Germany and Belgium. These experiences allowed me to interact with people from diverse backgrounds, and I draw inspiration from their perspectives. This has cultivated an open-mindedness in me, appreciating the various ways to approach life and music.
Gen de Art: How do different environments and cultural experiences find their way into your music?
Ueno: Nature often influences my musical interpretations. For instance, the sensation of a forest breeze or the waves of the sea can inspire the way I play certain pieces. I've even integrated nature-based imagery into my music – like performing compositions inspired by trees. Collaborating with other art forms, such as contemporary dance and visual arts, also adds depth and new dimensions to my music.
Gen de Art: How did it feel to perform in Korea?
Ueno: Korea holds special memories for me, as I won the Tchaikovsky International Competition for Young Musicians when I was young. The warm reception and enthusiastic audiences motivate me to perform here. The passionate support of the audience adds to the excitement of performing on stage.
Gen de Art: What excites you most about your future in music?
Ueno: The excitement of making music remains constant. I play the cello because I love playing the cello. While I aim to expand my repertoire, collaborate across different art forms, and travel the world to connect with diverse audiences, my fundamental motivation is unchanged – sharing the joy of music with people.
Gen de Art: Have you explored collaborations with artists in Japan?
Ueno: I have previously collaborated with contemporary dance groups such as ROSAS in Belgium and in Japan, I have collaborated with Japanese traditional music and visual arts. I appreciate the unique perspectives they bring to my music.