California State University, Long Beach
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Her House Of Jazz

Published: March 20, 2017

Longtime piano teacher Chizuko Asada of CSULB’s Bob Cole Conservatory of Music believes in getting closer to her audience. To do that, she was willing to establish her own Tustin-based musical venue called Hoson House where every few weeks, the nonprofit showcase hosts acclaimed classical or jazz musicians.

Visitors relax in red lounge chairs or occupy overflow seating behind the floor-level stage in a room that can accommodate approximately 80 people.

“I’ve performed many recitals at CSULB since I first joined the university in 1995,” she explained. “But no matter how often I perform in a big hall, I feel far away from my audience. A piano is a one-person show with one acoustic piano and no loudspeakers. Pianists work in a delicate, nuanced style and I always feel too far away.”

With the help of handy friends and, when necessary, professional carpenters, she created a concert hall about 800 square feet in size. She installed hardwood floors—twice—in order to achieve the proper ambience. Asada painted the walls in muted greens and browns, hung her grandfather’s calligraphy, added soft lighting and converted the compact backyard into a miniature Japanese pagoda garden. Pre-concert and during intermission, volunteers serve wine and appetizers in an adjacent room. In 2014, the Tustin Area Council for Fine Arts (TACFA) awarded Asada a $5,000 grant to add ramps and wider doors.

The Hoson House’s jazz program is run by percussionist Chris Wabich, a CSULB classmate of Asada’s.

“As an exceptionally gifted drummer, he brings many first-rate jazz musicians to Hoson House,” she said.

Asada has been listed twice in the Who’s Who among America’s teachers where she was listed as one of the best teachers in America and has performed in concert with the CSULB Symphony Orchestra. She earned her master’s degree in performance from CSULB.

“I may not be famous but I have my own voice and I feel more comfortable in a smaller house,” she said. “I wanted to bring classical music back to its original home where performers like Chopin began. Classical music finds itself in competition with large pop concerts. For many younger listeners used to venues that seat 2,000, classical music has become the least popular music. I think one reason for that is classical music is not presented in the right place. But what if there was the chance for first-rate performers to perform in such a setting?”

In 2012, she found the house she was looking for in Tustin. It once served as a pre-school complete with a large central space for performance.

“Miraculously, we now have a space that can seat from 50 to 100 people,” she said. “We can change the layout to anything we want.”

Audiences have been notable for their diversity in age and community. “I especially want young people to get involved because they are an investment in the future,” she said.

She also thanked Bob Cole Conservatory faculty for their support in talent and students.

“It serves as an excellent venue where students can prepare their recitals,” she said. “All the faculty in the piano program have performed in Hoson House. For instance, every April, the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music hosts a Multi-Piano Extravaganza Benefit where all proceeds benefit the Keyboard Foundation which provides scholarships for piano students.

Chizuko Asada playing at the Hoson House.
Chizuko Asada playing at the Hoson House.

“Last year, the entire faculty and many students performed at the Hoson House in connection with the Multi-Piano Extravaganza,” she recalled. With two pianos instead of the extravaganza’s usual six, the pianos may be fewer but they are closer. Basically, the audience is on stage with the performers. They can feel every intricate vibration.”

Asada believes it is valuable for CSULB music students to learn how to perform before a live audience.

“I want to strengthen their connection to a live audience. The most important thing about a performer is what is inside that performer. What do they want to express?” she asked. “Music is only ink on paper until somebody plays it. Even Beethoven is meaningless if no one plays him. Nothing beats live music.”

Asada feels the audience connection in her own performances.

“Only performing before people can lift me to the next level,” she said. “Even if I were to practice 12 hours a day, if there is no audience, I cannot reach the next level. Artists need audiences for art to really blossom. With an audience, an artist can express their feeling for the music. In that moment, something magical happens.”

Asada’s main goal for the Hoson House is the support and discovery of new talent.

“When you think about it, the potential market for classical music is small,” she said. “How many pianists make a living by performing? Maybe there are 100 in the whole world. But there is a lot more talent out there than that. That is the talent I want to nurture. I also want to educate the audience so they can better appreciate classical music. When small children attend, I always ask them if they enjoyed what they heard and they usually say, ‘Yes.’ Kids watch and listen because the performer is playing right in front of them. We want to raise the audience interest at the same time we offer performers a chance to perform.”