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Chicago Shimpo
Jazz Pianist Oe Enjoys Meeting Students
At Oak Park River Forest High School

• Jazz pianist Senri Oe flew from New York and met with the students, who have been studying Japanese language at the Oak Park River Forest High School on November 30. Teacher Yoko Schmadeke overheard that Oe was going to hold concerts in the Chicago areas and dared to ask him to visit the high school. She said that Oe warmly accepted her invitation.

• On the stage of the huge auditorium, the students sat around Oe, and then a film of his gorgeous concert stage was screened. It was held in the early 1990s at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo.
• Oe, a successful singer-songwriter since his debut in 1983, is now 57 years old. It was 10 years ago when he decided to wrap up his activities in Japan and enrolled in the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York to learn jazz. He was fascinated by jazz in his teens and long haunted by the mystery of jazz essence.

• While he was playing the piano, Oe talked to the students about his life such as being a star in Japan, his struggles in New School, and becoming a jazz pianist. “I was rich when I was popular in Japan, but I wasn’t really happy. I became 57, but I’m really happy now because I’ve been doing my favorite jazz,” said Oe and encouraged the students to try to make one step further to reach the next level.

• Oe spoke about his episodes in his young days. As a popular singer-songwriter, he was expected to release new songs one after another, so he was always thinking about that. One day, he was standing on the platform to catch a Shinkansen bullet train. Suddenly a melody came into his mind, and he ran to a public phone and recorded it in the voice mail of his home telephone.

• Oe spoke the Japanese language when conversations with students were simple, then switched to English when their conversation became complicated. He asked them, “Do you play musical instruments?” After some responses from them, he said, “The key point to music practice is enjoying it. You can develop many patterns of music from the same melody.” He demonstrated some different patterns and talked about the joy of solving mysteries of jazz such as chords, rhythms, and articulations. He also played some Christmas pieces in jazz style.

• The students had practiced Oe’s song “You” and sang it with him. While they were singing together, they become closer and closer.

• After singing the song, some students said, “He is really cool,” “He is really good at piano,” “He was amazing, and things he said were so cool, like talking about his dreams. I loved it so much.”

• After the meeting, the fourth graders had lunch with Oe and more conversations with him. Oe enjoyed touring the school later and visited Japanese language classroom where he encountered a surprise welcome by the students with his song “Arigato”.

Senri Oe with the students of the Oak Park River Forest High School