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August 25, 2023
Authentic: Morihiko Nakahara
Morihiko Nakahara doesn’t remember when or how he first learned to read music. It could’ve been in kindergarten, as music class was a required subject in his native city of Kagoshima Perfecture, Japan. It could’ve been at home where a piano stood, although no one in the family really played. By the time he was in middle school, he was sharing Mozart cassette tapes with fellow students. He chose the clarinet as his primary instrument and was struck by the captivating power of the school’s band director. The opportunity to lead his fellow bandmates through a piece of music on his own sealed Morihiko’s fate for wanting to pursue a life of music, with hopes to one day become a conductor.
Fast forward years later, with many accolades and world travels under his belt, Morihiko has held the position of Music Director and Conductor of the South Carolina Philharmonic since 2008. Aside from the technical elements of the role, Morihiko remarks that you need not only a bird’s eye view of the orchestra as a whole, but a personal connection as well. “It’s really about the people. It’s an essential part of what we do. There could be up to ninety people on a stage and they’re all individual human beings with different needs and backgrounds. It’s very human-based work,” he says. Between the conductor and the orchestra, and the orchestra to the audience, there is a symbiotic relationship in a shared live music experience.
For Morihiko, the creative pursuit never really ends. In his free time, he likes to sit in on other orchestras while they rehearse like a fly on the wall, simply because the process fascinates him. Although his passion for music extends far beyond a typical forty-hour work week, he believes in the importance of prioritizing a work-life balance, too. “It’s important. The key for me is being able to switch gears. If I really need to focus on a project, I can do that, but it’s also important to be able to spend time with friends and family and live your life, too,” Morihiko explains. Perhaps, sparking creativity through a disciplinary approach is the secret to lifelong fulfillment within our realms of passion.
As another season for the South Carolina Philharmonic approaches, Morihiko is excited for what is to come. With the return of beloved events like Beethoven and Blue Jeans and a family-friendly “Halloween at Hogwarts” program with Halloween costumes worn throughout the audience and on stage, Morihiko reminds the community that “Music is for everyone.” From “A Work of Heart,” a new sensory program for listeners with special needs, to selections that include more female composers, to casual brewery pop-up concerts—Morihiko and the rest of the South Carolina Philharmonic are determined to redefine what classical music looks like for the modern listener, inviting the community to take part.
Photo by Kevin Kyzer