Keiko Abe awarded Fellowship of the RNCM

We were proud to award Yamaha artist Keiko Abe with Fellowship of the RNCM during a recent visit to the College.

The marimba virtuoso, who turned 80 earlier this year, was presented with the accolade by Principal Professor Linda Merrick on Thursday 23 November following a lunchtime concert with RNCM percussion students.

Fellowship of the RNCM is conferred upon distinguished musicians who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in professional practice, pedagogy and/or artistic leadership. For over 40 years, we have awarded numerous Fellowships and Honorary Memberships to world-renowned musicians, conductors, composers, educators, and advocates, including Placido Domingo, Sir John Dankworth, Dame Joan Sutherland, Dame Janet Baker, Sir Mark Elder, András Schiff, Hans Werner Henze and Sir Bernard Lovell.

Born in Tokyo in 1937, Keiko began playing the marimba aged 12 after hearing an American missionary group from Oral Roberts University playing the first marimba ever brought to Japan. After earning a degree in music education, she began a marimba trio that played popular music, but grew frustrated with the limited scope of the ensemble and in 1962 entered the world of contemporary classical music, playing mallet percussion with the NHK Orchestra. During this time she had her own Japanese television and radio show. In 1963, the Yamaha Corporation sought Japanese marimba players to assist in the design of new instruments; Keiko was chosen for her original and clear ideas of the marimba sound and design. Her ideas guided Yamaha’s design, and in the 1970s they began production. In addition, at her urging, the range of the new marimba was stretched from four octaves to five, which has become the standard for soloists. Keiko has been closely associated with Yamaha ever since, and their first ever signature series of keyboard percussion mallets bears her name.

The RNCM enjoys a strong relationship with Yamaha, which has provided support through student scholarships and sponsorship for a number of years. Simone Rebello, RNCM Director of Percussion, and Le Yu, RNCM International Visiting Tutor in Marimba, are both Yamaha artists.

24 November 2017