Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Hope Omachi Kawashima Interview
Narrator: Hope Omachi Kawashima
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Fresno, California
Date: September 10, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-khope-01-0023

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MH: I had an interest and maybe you could follow up on this, did everyone in your family become musically inclined because of your mom's piano playing? Did, was that important to your family, that music be a part of your life, or not? Did anybody take up playing other instruments or anything like that in camp?

HK: Well, my two older sisters that were the twins played the violin, and then my mother taught all of us to play the piano. But I think I was the only one that liked to practice, and so I'm the only one that actually went into music, studied music in college. But my other sisters, my two oldest sisters both became nurses, and one married a doctor, one married a pharmacist. And then my next sister, Esther, became an occupational therapist. Then my brother, he was a good pianist, I remember. He used to play, he could just play without music, play by ear. So he was good, but he studied electrical engineering. And then my youngest sister's -- well, nobody liked to practice as much as I did. Or maybe it was my fault because they would say, "Why is Hope always on the piano? We don't get to practice." Because to me that was my only entertainment, or I enjoyed doing it. But my parents, of course, (...) particularly my mother, always encouraged me to continue my music studies, so that's why she sent me to her former piano teacher.

And then I remember when I was in high school my choir teacher told me, asked me to sing a solo for the spring concert. I said, "I can't sing, I've never (sung) a solo in front of people." He says, "You can do it." So I told my mother I was panicked, and she says, "You can do it. I'll take you to a voice teacher." So she took me for voice lessons and she taught (...) me to sing "One Fine Day" from Madame Butterfly, and I had never even heard of it before, but then she taught me how to sing it. And so (...) before that my mother says, "Well, why don't you sing some solos in church so you get used to singing in front of people." So I sang in front of people in church and I was scared to death, but then I was surprised everybody liked it, so then I got up and sang for the spring concert in front of (...) all my classmates. And they were all shocked because I was always very quiet and they couldn't believe I could sing. And so then that's, kind of started my singing adventures, I guess you'd say, 'cause then they'd ask me to sing for their weddings and all this type of thing. So I would sing for concerts and weddings and conferences and dinners, all kinds of things. I always enjoyed it, but I just never expected to do that much singing.

KL: It's always neat when there's some important theme like that that goes through a couple generations, I think. Neat for your mom, too, I'm sure, to see you share her --

HK: (Yes), my mother always encouraged me, 'cause I always said, "Oh, I can't do that," but she always said, "You can do it." So it was very helpful because she always encouraged me. But then I think my siblings said you can't make a living on music.

KL: Well, it takes some discipline to become good, too, at music. For most people, anyway. I mean, you had a love of it, it sounds like, so you can do it a lot.

HK: Yes, I always liked it. But then, even to this day, it's hard to make a living on music. But I enjoy teaching, so I still teach. I teach private lessons in piano and voice, and I enjoy doing that. The hardest thing is teaching my grandchildren. Three little boys, can you imagine three little boys that'd rather be outside, trying to get them to play the piano? [Laughs] But they're learning.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.