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Exploring Harmonies: Misaki Umei’s Journey at 22, Mastering the Piano Language




How did you come to know the name “Misaki Umei”? Perhaps you heard about her as a promising jazz pianist who won the Grand Prix at the audition for the “BLUE GIANT NIGHTS” event, derived from the popular jazz manga “BLUE GIANT SUPREME,” during high school. She went on to perform alongside Hiromi Uehara and Kendrick Scott at Blue Note Tokyo. Others may know her as the composer for the vocal unit “haruyoi,” with Shoka Sugano or for her striking solo work under her own name, such as the latest track “w_mimoza,” featuring classical strings arrangements and a seven-minute development. Each of these roles forms a vital part of Misaki Umei as a musician. Continually seeking the unknown, she explores emotions that words cannot fully express, continuing her musical journey. Born in March 2002, she is currently 22 years old and shared her journey so far as a talent poised to lead the next generation.

Expressing Emotions Through Music

-You are from Kakogawa City in Hyogo Prefecture and started playing the piano at the age of four, influenced by your mother who was a piano teacher. You began composing music at the age of six.

Umei: I have always loved improvisation, and I remember that this led me to composing. I was not good at playing according to the score, and my teacher used to get angry at me, saying, “You’re composing on your own again! [laughs]. I was more interested in creating my own compositions than playing according to the score, and I don’t think that attitude has changed.

-Why do you think you enjoy creating?

Umei: It’s the same now, but I’m not very good at communicating with words. I used to think that if I expanded my vocabulary, things would change, but when I got to know various words, I realized that in the end, many of my thoughts and what I want to express are not applicable to words. Rather, I like the sound itself, and music has always been the closest thing to me, so I guess it felt right as an emotional expression.

Misaki Umei
Born in Kakogawa City, Hyogo Prefecture. She began playing the piano at the age of four and started composing and playing the electronic organ at six. She graduated with a major in composition from the Music Department of Nishinomiya High School and from the Composition Department of Tokyo College of Music. She was a recipient of the Yamaha Music Scholarship Support System in 2018. In January 2020, she released the Misaki Umei Trio’s first album “Humoresque” from Brilliant Works. Her activities span widely, including a successful performance at the Cotton Club with her trio, and collaborations with artists such as Hiromi Uehara, Kendrick Scott, Masaki Hayashi, Takashi Niigaki, Eiko Ishibashi, Mugi Furukawa, Mika Nakashima, Kayoko Yoshizawa, Kairi Yagi, SennaRin, Miliyah Kato, and Shinya Kiyozuka. She also participates as a pianist and arranger in live performances and recordings for various artists (names are not in order and honorifics are omitted). Additionally, she began a solo project in February 2023.
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-Did you enjoy school, or did you prefer coming home and playing the piano by yourself?

Umei: School was fun, but I knew I didn’t have the same interests as my classmates. What was popular when I was in elementary school was AKB48 and Arashi, but what I was into was DIMENSION and Niacin [laughs]. I didn’t intentionally try to like mature things, but people around me thought I was acting mature, and we didn’t get along when we talked about music, which I remember feeling sad about.

-Did things change after you went to high school with a music program?

Umei: For the first time, I met people with whom I could have deep conversations about music. It was a classical music school, but there were kids who had been child actors with Shiki Theatre Company, kids who played jazz, and others who played the bassoon at school but had always loved singing. It was an environment with a diverse group of people, and it had a huge impact on me. I never really listened to music by genre; instead, I focused on the artist or specific parts of a song that I liked, and this fit in perfectly with the environment.



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