Education Music

Sony Computer Science Laboratories Launches Music Excellence Project Featuring the world’s first piano study program to combine physical and arts education

Tokyo, Japan — Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. (President and CEO: Hiroaki Kitano; hereafter referred to as Sony CSL) today announced the launch of the Music Excellence Project, an initiative that supports the development of promising young musicians. The Project’s first study forum is the Academy Program, beginning on August 1, 2020. Combining physical and arts education in the world’s first holistic piano study program for young musicians, the Academy Program will enable students to pursue excellence in musical expression and the sustainable development of skills as they pursue artistic maturity.

Generally, musicians require years of training from childhood in order to produce a truly moving performance. Such rigorous training can lead to physical discomfort and emotional distress, making it difficult for young musicians to keep developing their skills.

Using state-of-the-art physical and art education, the Academy Program precludes the buildup of negative pressures and enables a pianist to focus on the pursuit of outstanding musicality. In the Physical Education Program, students learn how the brain and body work (functions) and how to make the best use of the body (skills). They study effective practice methods and how to prevent both injury and the psychological stress that comes with failing to perform under pressure. In the Arts Education Program, they study music to international standards and receive guidance as they develop their own forms of musical expression.

Through this program, pianists with professional ambitions will develop a robust physical foundation and master various forms of artistic expression while still in their teens. They will also be able to cultivate new ways of thinking and explore their creativity, key factors in the development of their musicality.

Program Overview

Physical Education Program: Study Transformed by Cutting-Edge Technologies

One key feature of the Physical Education Program is Musical Dynaformics, a scientific framework for elucidating the mechanisms that underlie the acquisition and loss of high-level sensorimotor behaviors. To support the mastery of technique and good practice, cutting-edge, high-precision sensing technologies are used to evaluate skills and generate recommendations for sensorimotor function training. Meanwhile the Physical Education for Artist Curriculum (PEAC), which draws on knowledge in the realms of kinesiology and neuroscience, guides students to an awareness of their movement habits and posture during a performance. This enables students to optimize the way they use their body, and to master practice methods efficiently and effectively.

Musical Dynaformics

Arts Education Program: A World-Class Education
The Arts Education Program offers a world-class education, featuring the globally renowned pianist Dina Yoffe as Musical Director and lessons from six highly accomplished pianists who perform internationally. Dina Yoffe is a master trainer who has won international acclaim over many years of performing and musical guidance. Her former students include top pianists on the global stage. Learning directly from Dina Yoffe will greatly accelerate the development of teen pianists as they explore their musical potential.

The Arts Education Program seeks to achieve a seamless integration of research and development with personal guidance. It systematically identifies issues that become clear during training and generates solutions to address each issue. In this way, challenges that would otherwise remain obscure are made clear to the student. The goal is to offer physical and arts education that will enable each pianist to offer performances of creativity and vitality over the course of a lifetime, thereby contributing to the nurturing and sustainability of a culturally enriched society.

Musical Director Dina Yoffe is looking forward to the challenge. “I’m delighted to have been appointed musical director of this wonderful, exclusive educational project in collaboration with Sony CSL,” she says. “We are starting a project with great potential for the budding pianist. It will combine a professional musical education with guidance on how to control the body and how to avoid tension during practice and when performing. As Musical Director, I will oversee our team of excellent teachers as they guide the students, and our young assistants. On the Sony CSL side, a wonderful team of professionals and enthusiasts will help my team deliver the most appropriate and high-quality education to the young musicians. We are very fortunate to enjoy the backing of Kawai Musical Instruments, which is providing instruments, support, and cooperation. I expect to see wonderful results as the project advances, and look forward to the birth of the first great musician who will fondly recall the value of this training.”

Lead Researcher Dr. Shinichi Furuya is familiar with the hurdles that many pianists face. “There are many educational institutions and academies around the world that train pianists and have made great contributions to the education of artists,” he readily acknowledges. “However, based on my own experience of physical education at colleges of music in Germany, Austria, and Japan, I have become keenly aware of how important it is to catch habits at an early stage before they become entrenched, to learn how to properly use one’s body, and to know about ways to practice. Too frequently, these key matters are not adequately addressed. With the launch of the Academy, it is my hope that young artists will build inspiring careers that serve as a beacon for the next generation of pianists as they aim for excellence in musical expression.”

Project members (titles omitted)

Musical Director: Dina Yoffe
Assistant Lecturers: Yuhi Ozaki, Takuya Tainaka, Mami Nishio, Hiroko Matsushita, Yui Yoshioka, Masaru Yoshitake
Lecturer: Yuso Yamamoto (KAWAI Europe)
Technical Support: Takanori Oku, Hayato Nishioka, Masato Hirano (Sony CSL)
Operations: Ayuko Matsuda (Almond Co., Ltd.), Aya Fujita (Sony CSL)
Organizer: Shinichi Furuya (Sony CSL)
Students (inaugural class) (selected based on auditions*)
Riko Ando, Tomoya Otaki, Yuuto Yamazaki, Yuuki Kimoto, Aiko Shimada, Kisara Yonemitsu, Rin Suzuki, Kotaro Watanabe, Yuu Matsuoka

Schedule: (inaugural class): August 2020 – May 2021 (planned)

Cooperation: Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)

About Professor Dina Yoffe
Top prize-winner at the Schumann and Chopin International Piano Competitions. Participant at international music festivals in Europe, Japan, and the United States. Honorary member of the Japan Piano Teachers Association. Artistic Director of the Festival and Master Classes “Musical Summer” in Malaga (Spain). Originally from Riga (Latvia), Yoffe graduated from the Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Music in Moscow under the tutelage of Prof. Vera Gornostaeva, one of the most important proponents of the legendary Heinrich Neuhaus school. She has served as a judge in such international piano competitions as Hamamatsu (Japan), Chopin (Warsaw), and Liszt Competition (Weimar). Currently, she is Distinguished Professor at the Conservatory Liceu in Barcelona (Spain), Professor at the Talent Music Masters Academy in Brescia (Italy), and Visiting Professor at the Central Conservatory of Music (China). Her students have won national and international piano competitions. Many of them are teaching in music academies in the United States, Japan, and Europe.

About Shinichi Furuya, Ph.D
Shinichi Furuya has been a researcher at Sony CSL since April 2017. His previous positions included associate professor at Sophia University; the same university’s Musical Skill and Injury Center Director; guest professor at the Institute for Music Physiology and Musician’s Medicine at Hannover University of Music, Drama and Media; as well as lecturer at Kyoto City University of Arts, at Tokyo College of Music, and at Elisabeth University of Music. At Osaka University, Japan, he studied mechanical engineering (BSc), biomechanics and exercise physiology (MS), and motor neuroscience (PhD). He then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Kansei Gakuin University (Japan), the University of Minnesota (USA), and Hannover University of Music, Drama and Media (Germany). He was a recipient of the Leading Initiative for Excellent Young Researchers (LEADER) award from Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). He was awarded the Susanne Klein-Vogelbach-Prize for the Research of Human Movement 2019. He himself is a prize-winning pianist who has competed in a number of professional piano competitions in Japan.

– The dates of the next audition have not yet been decided.

Media inquiries:Corporate Communications, Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc.