Good in Gardena performer profile: Kineya Katsuyukie

My shamisen teacher will be joining us for both the lunch and concert portions of Good in Gardena! Here is a bit of background about this wonderful woman!


While I was living in Hakodate, Japan, I wanted to study traditional Japanese music and asked my friends and students where I might find a Kabuki or Noh music teacher. Not having any idea, one student jokingly suggested I look in the phone book under “nagauta”, the main genre of music used in Kabuki. Amazingly, there was one entry! I made contact and quickly came to learn that this teacher is a world-class performer. It wasn’t long before I was taking daily lessons before and after work.

Now… to be fair… if you ask almost any student of Japanese arts about their teacher, that teacher is always “the best in Japan”. But trying to set my personal biases aside, I think Katsuyukie-Sensei really is special.

Kineya Katsuyukie (Chihara Yukie) began studying shamisen in 1947 at age 9 and has become one of Japan’s most respected traditional musicians. She was one of the main students of Kineya Katsusaburo VII, the guild’s renowned head instructor, studying with him from 1960 until his death in 2009. A female musician in the male-dominated world of Kabuki, she established Masaki-kai in 1992 to promote women in nagauta, has more than two dozen students in Hakodate and Japan, including Kineya Katsujyuuro, one of the guild’s most accomplished young players (and who will be joining Good in Gardena!).

In my 12 years studying with Katsuyukie, I continue to be amazed at her depth of knowledge. She can masterfully perform dozens and dozens of complicated nagauta works and can simultaneously sing most of the other ensemble instrument parts. Her technique is wonderfully dynamic and incredibly precise. She has dedicated her life to nagauta; as she puts it, “I married the shamisen.” I feel so lucky to have met her, especially because she only listed it that one time as a favor to a previous classmate working at the phone book company! Katsuyukie has had the greatest effect on my musicianship, setting an impossibly high bar for professionalism.

March is Women’s History Month and I’m terribly excited to have opportunities at the Good in Gardena lunch and concert to ask her more about her experiences. We will be performing Fuji Ondo, with dancing by the beautiful, Nakamura Narumi, Kagami Jishi, my favorite nagauta piece of all time, and Dagakki, a contemporary taiko and shamisen piece I’ve arranged for the event. Katsuyukie-Sensei will also do a shamisen demonstration with behind-the-scenes info about the instrument.

Tickets are available. Please come see this amazing player!

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