Jazz pianist, Miki Yamanaka, joins Francesca to share about her musical upbringing, food as spirituality, Asian allyship, and how play makes perfect.
Miki Yamanaka is a New York-based pianist from Kobe, Japan. She moved to New York City in 2012 and has studied Piano with Jason Lindner, Jeb Patton, and Fred Hersch, and Organ with Sam Yahel and Larry Goldings. In 2015 she was one of three pianists selected to participate in “Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead”, an intensive composition residency at the Kennedy Center. She earned her Master of Music degree from Queens College, receiving the Sir Roland Hanna Award. She holds residencies at Smalls and Mezzrow Jazz Clubs in NYC, and is the current pianist in the Philip Harper Quintet, the Roxy Coss Quintet, and the Antonio Hart Group. One of her newest compositions is a 5-part suite entitled “Human Dust Suite.” For more information, please visit MikiYamanaka.com
Natural Progression: Music & Practice
Continuing tapping her deep well of joyful, mindful, creatives on the ReRooted podcast, Francesca welcomes extraordinary jazz pianist, Miki Yamanaka. Invited to share her story, Miki describes her upbringing in Japan, her musical training, the natural progression to playing for money, and then her giant leap across the pond to New York in 2012, where her career as a musician would fully blossom. For a sampling of her improvisational prowess which sparked the interview, check out this Miki Yamanaka Trio livestream.
“There is spiritual practice, musical practice, athletic practice, mind, body, soul, spirit. The freedom comes to do all these fun things [like playing music], when you’re grounded in a certain degree of discipline, which from at least my understanding, is part of what happens when we’re able to establish one-pointed concentration and be in a more centered space of focusing our attention.” – Francesca Maximé
Dig another Jazz based interview with Francesca, as she dives into the musical healing of Warren Wolf, on Ep. 46 of ReRooted
Food & Gratitude as Spiritual Practice (7:35)
When asked by Francesca if she has a spiritual practice, Miki shares that her daily practice is actually something very close to all of our hearts: food and cooking. Taking a page from Konda Mason’s Brown Rice Hour Podcast, Miki and Francesca dive into the spiritual goodness and holistic importance of a grounded, well-balanced diet. Through this lens, Miki explores her relationship to preparing and consuming food, outlining the deep gratitude and spiritual awareness inherent to all parts of the process.
“I like to cook and I like to eat. Eating healthy and eating well is very important to human beings, more than people think. It’s really important eating well and grounded. I eat everything, but with a healthy balance, and I thank every bit of things I cook and eat—I really thank them.” – Miki Yamanaka
Join Ram Dass, along with Francesca’s teacher, Jack Kornfield, explore eating food as meditation, on Ep. 104 of Here & Now
Asian Allyship (18:50)
Speaking to the uprise of Asian hate crimes coming to a horrific head with the eight murders in Georgia this past week, Miki discusses the harsh realities of anti-Asian racism, and the dire need for true outspoken allyship across the board.
“I’m so sad to know that happened—white man killed asian woman—that’s completely disgusting. But I want to encourage my asian friends, and any ethnic people, including white friends: Just show your rage. Be with us. Feel with us. That will be so helpful to know that y’all are feeling with us.” – Miki Yamanaka
Be the refuge: Hear and raise the powerful voices of Asian American Women, on Ep. 53 of The Road Home
Play Makes Perfect (33:18)
Prompted by Francesca, Miki describes her process of practice, creation, and playing music with others; talking to the environment of connection needed to cultivate spontaneous improvisational flow.
“I just play whatever I want to play. I’m not the most skillfully gifted player. I just like to create music, so I don’t really like to practice alone. I’d much rather call a couple friends to show up to my apartment, ‘Hey do you want to play a session?’ Then, I just play with them, and use my ears.” – Miki Yamanaka
Francesca explores the sonic stylings of improvisational jazz and the balance music can instill in our lives, on Ep. 12 of ReRooted
Source images via Desmond White & Miki Yamanaka