Adorned in a peach dress, Ai Domon Nakatsuka moved the audience with her wide vocal range as she gracefully hit high notes for her vocal recital on Nov. 27. Nakatsuka said her Japanese identity influenced her portrayal of the music she chose for her recital.
Nakatsuka, a senior from Japan studying music, said memorizing the songs in five different languages was challenging for her. Nakatsuka performed songs in English, Japanese, Italian, French, and German. She said, “I studied them for over a year and for some of the songs [it took] three months, but it took a lot of time.”
Sister Julie Nield, a volunteer missionary from Wyoming, said that Nakatsuka had great control over her voice and was poised. “I could see how she could do a little bit of lighthearted numbers of love. [It was] very beautiful and serious the music that I heard… I could understand only a few of the words, but I could hear it in her music.”
Identities through four seasons
Nakatsuka shared how her recital revolved around the theme of four seasons. She opened with a lively piece called “Spring” by Dominick Argento. Each time a new season was introduced, a painting was put up on a stand that depicted the season she was singing about.
Her friends made the four-connecting paintings and Nakatsuka said she didn’t see the paintings until the day of her recital. “It was really cool to see how visual arts can affect the… arts that [people] can’t see.”
As a Japanese student, Nakatsuka said she believes “we all have an identity [where] we portray our feelings with the four seasons. I wanted to show that through my recital… and I wanted to have something that can show my identity through it.”
Cromwell Barredo, a senior from the Philippines studying accounting, said, “I usually don’t hear Ai talk a lot whenever we’re in church. She’s a very silent person, but when I saw her here during her recital, I just saw a totally different person and I think I saw who she really is – her and her wonderful voice.”
Choice of music
One of the songs that caught the audience’s attention was Nakatsuka’s performance of “Hello! Oh, Margaret, it’s you” by Gian Carlo Menotti. Nakatsuka walked up the piano and said, “Excuse me,” while looking at the audience, which caught them by surprise.
She then picked up her phone on top of the piano, brought it to her ear, and proceeded to sing as if she was talking on the phone. The lyrics were about the singer catching up with her friend, Margaret, and her attempt to say goodbye, despite Margaret calling back again and again. The last few lyrics said, “Alright, alright goodbye. Now Margaret, goodbye,” where Nakatsuka proceeded to end the call, making the audience laugh.
Piano accompanist and special instructor for music, Stacy McCarrey, said it was a pleasure to work with Nakatsuka and that she liked the music she chose. “I really enjoyed how different Ai’s voice sounded from one song to the next. It [gave] a lot of different colors with her voice, so that was interesting.”
Experiences and future goals
Ai’s husband, Kei Nakatsuka, a senior from Japan studying exercise and sports science, shared they experienced some challenges while preparing for Ai’s recital. Both were raising their son, and due to her need to practice, they struggled to manage their time. “[We had] to adjust schedules so that she could have practice and I could work at the same time.”
Through constant communication and their love for one another, they were able to get through it and help each other.
Ai Nakatsuka shared that she had a goal of becoming a vocal teacher after studying, but it changed when they had their son. She said she wants to put up a little school from her home where she can teach kids important things, such as science and sewing.
Being able to learn more about other cultures is her favorite thing about BYU–Hawaii. Nakatsuka said because of her decision to study here, she was able to get a better perspective about different people and was able to accept other cultures’ customs, which she would not have learned had she stayed in Japan.