Koto musician, teacher, music director
Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto
The legacy of Shirley Muramoto’s koto music has its roots in the internment camps of World War II. Shirley’s grandparents felt it was important for their daughter (Shirley’s mother) to learn the koto while interned at Topaz and Tule Lake concentration camps.
Shirley started learning koto from about the age of 5. Raised in Oakland, California, Shirley’s musical training reflected not only koto music, but violin, voice and guitar. The multi-cultural influences she experienced growing up in the Bay Area gave Shirley a basis for expanding the creativity in her koto playing. In 1976, she made her first trip to Japan to take her “Shihan” teaching exams. Passing with high scores, she achieved the honor of “Yushusho”, the first foreigner to be awarded this degree in the Chikushi School. In 2000, she received her “DaiShihan” master’s degree from the Chikushi School for her dedication and teaching.
Throughout her childhood, Shirley’s major influence in koto music came from Katsuko Chikushi, one of the few women composers of the koto. She was also inspired greatly by the blind koto master Kimio Eto, who during the 1960s, performed with such eclectic artists as Bud Shank, Harry Belafonte, Henry Cowell and Danny Kaye.
Shirley has had the opportunity to expand the world of koto music through numerous recordings, performances and collaborations, adding the flavor of koto to such music genres as jazz, bluegrass, Latin, gospel, orchestral, rap, folk and Ethiopian.
Shirley has produced four CD’s with the Murasaki Ensemble, a world jazz fusion group which she founded, and two contemporary CD’s which feature the koto in solo and duets with shakuhachi, violin, flute and guitar.
For over 30 years, Shirley has given private lessons and classes on the koto, and continues to teach students ranging from young to elder. She has also been active in research concerning Japanese traditional arts in the internment camps during World War II.