Mariko is a cellist based in fabulous Las Vegas! As a child, Mariko was inspired by a children’s book that featured a cello-playing bear, and asked her parents for lessons. At the age of 17, she made the decision to turn her passion into her career, pursued a degree from the Tokyo University of Arts, and made the shift to playing professionally. After performing as the first Japanese cellist in Cirque Du Soleil’s Michael Jackson Immortal Tour (with some members of MJ’s original band!), she made the decision to stay in the United States, and has since played for Madonna’s Madame X On Tour, a Prince tribute at the T-Mobile Arena, Cirque’s Zumanity, and the rock band STARSET, as well as created and released her own album entitled “Artemis”! Offstage, she’s found a passion for ballet barre conditioning, and supports Room to Read, “a nonprofit for children’s literacy and girls’ education across Asia and Africa.” Her advice for young artists? “Listen to your heart, follow your passion, and the results will follow you.” Read on to learn more about Mariko and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan
Current City: Las Vegas, Nevada
Current project: The creation of my album, “Artemis,” and writing a film score.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
Performing with many amazing artists. Composing and performing my original pieces for movies, events, and live concerts.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Listen to your heart, follow your passion, and the results will follow you.
How did you get your start?
When I was 4 years old, I saw a bear playing a cello in a children’s book. I don't know why, but I asked my mother if I could learn the cello. My mother took me to a violin class (which is a bit similar to cello), and it was the only place to learn string instruments in that town and at that moment.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
Every time I'm on the stage, sharing music and time with the audience.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
To me, each show and each stage is challenging for something. And I like to find that something from the stage experience or recording so I can challenge myself to make my music better and better.
Do you have any organizations or non profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
It’s not related to music, but I’m supporting “Room to Read”.
Who do you admire?
Do you have any mentors?
Yo-Yo Ma and The Turtle Island Strings Quartet.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
Before I decided to be a musician, I was going to study law when I was in high school.
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
When I was 17 years old, I had a teacher help me realize that I wanted to learn music on a more logical level. That changed the game for me!
If you come from parents who aren’t in the arts, what parts of them do you see in yourself that have helped you succeed in the business?
My parents were very strict, and disciplined me well when I was a child. Although they were very open to letting me find the things that I liked to do, they taught me that I should never give up on what I decided to do. That helped me keep practicing and work hard.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Listen to new genres of music and travel overseas.
What skills did you find to be the most helpful in your career?
Improvising and thinking outside of the box.
Where did you study at?
I graduated from Tokyo University of Arts.
What do you love most about what you do?
Actually playing the music, or creating music/art with people.
Do you have any self care practices you do to stay focused and sane?
Eating healthy, talking with friends, and working out.
What was your self care routine before the pandemic and how has that (as well as your views of self care) changed throughout the pandemic?
I was taking a ballet barre class this year up until summer. It definitely helped condition my body.
If you used to be in the arts and have gone into a new profession, what prompted the change, what skills that you already had led you to gravitate towards it, and what was your transition into your new profession like? What kind of challenges did you face, and what did you find you were very comfortable with? And what skills from your arts training did you find helped you in your new profession?
I have always been thinking how I can be unique as a professional musician -- specifically, how I can create my own sound, since cellists don't use their own voices. In this world, so many many talented musicians and artists exist. My own everyday goal is to practice and get enough confidence to have space to create original ways for performance and sound.
What inspires you?
Friends, family, and nature
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil was my first world tour, and that made me want to stay in the USA to make music!
To find out more about Mariko, please visit her at:
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