Junto Profile: Kei Terauchi Sideboard by Marc Weidenbaum

todayFebruary 27, 2023 3

share close

What’s Your Name? Kei Terauchi Sideboard

Where Are You Located? I currently live in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, California. I was born in Chiba, Japan, and grew up in Tokyo and Saitama, playing the piano, in the 1980s. I suppose I was gifted but I wasn’t a very good student. I refused to learn to read music for years and really did not like practicing. My family moved to Edina, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, in 1991 for my father’s work. There my piano lessons felt less confined, but I still played the classical canon of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, etc. I studied French literature and music at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. My senior thesis for French was on the retelling of Tristan and Isolde in literature and — you know it — Wagner, and my music project/presentation was talking about and performing pieces from the Second Viennese School, Berg’s Sonata Op. 1 (which is honestly more Romantic than Second Viennese), and Schoenberg’s Six Little Piano Pieces Op. 19.

I went to SUNY Stony Brook and got an MA in Music Theory/History with a focus in music and technology. My master’s thesis was on Der Lindberghflug by Weill and Hindemith. I guess music in academia in my time was very Germanic! To support myself financially I worked as a bartender in NYC and got sucked into the restaurant world. This derailed me from the trajectory of waiting for a tenured professor to pass to finally land a faculty job in a university music department. I worked in some very nice restaurants in NYC, Kyoto, Japan, Minneapolis, Napa Valley, and SF, for 17 years, until I fell into the start-up philanthropy work I’m currently in.

What Is Your Musical Activity? Since I left academia I always played the piano and jokingly called it my party trick. Honestly I wasn’t very inspired for a number of years. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the racial uprisings — the murder of George Floyd and anti-Asian hate crimes in particular — made me rethink about the limitation of playing the classical repertoire, dead white men’s music, on the piano. At this time I had also started an MA program in Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University and as I learned to think more critically about the world I decided to push the realm of critical thinking into creativity. This is how I started to make my own music based on my own experience for the first time. I start with conceptualization, then make that into music. The “style” of my music varies quite a bit because I borrow various musical techniques to make what I’ve conceptualized, but I think I have my own recognizable sound. My master’s thesis is about my compositional process accompanied by a dozen pieces I had written during my first and second years in the program. Some Junto projects I have participated in overlap with these.

Kei Terauchi Sideboard reflects on both sides of the Pacific

What Is One Good Musical Habit? 1. Go to performances, see other musicians play music, hear what they do and how they do it. 2. Reading works by authors who figured out how to tell their story their own way helped my music making. Some writers I admire are Alexander Chee, Ocean Vuong, Joan Didion, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, James Baldwin, and Natalia Ginzburg.

What Are Your Online Locations? Bandcamp (needs major update):
Website (also needs major update — this is where I’ll drop my MA thesis on music):

What Was a Particularly Meaningful Junto Project? 0551: The Bends (“Get less strict about something you’re strict about”) helped me get over my fear of composing on/for the piano!

0544: Feedback Loop was also really nice in that it encouraged participants to interact with each other through close listening and commenting.

When you make music now, would you say you find yourself “unlearning” your earlier classical knowledge, or building upon it? I don’t think I can unlearn my earlier musical knowledge. For one, that would mean erasing the muscle memory from years of piano playing. I avoided using the piano for my composition for a while but there is something physical about piano playing that I need in my life. So I began to write on the piano last summer in a way that makes sense to me. I also think unlearning tonal harmony, the language of classical Western music, is really difficult because it’s everywhere in our culture.

I think of my earlier musical knowledge like language or food you grew up with. Even if it wasn’t your choice, even if you grew up with it because of oppressive circumstances, and even if you hated it at some point in your life, cultural items like language, food, and music, you can come to accept it’s folded in your DNA. You have language or food or music to connect with others around you. So even if a musical tradition was shoved down your throat, when you strip it down to just sound, I think you can let that be, and embrace it, embrace the contradiction within yourself. I think it’s that visceral, at least for me, and that’s how I look at my musical background.

The writers I mentioned earlier showed me that you can have complexity and not have to explain everything in your work. For example, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s book Dictée is a really powerful work of art that shows that the process of creating is how, when and where we express. And she gives zero f’s if you understand what she’s talking about or not. Her writing is engrossed in the act of writing itself and I want my music making to be like that, using my own experience and sounds in my memory, the good ones and the bad ones, because they are both mine. That’s an homage to Ocean Vuong; in his On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous there’s this line, “The thing is, I don’t want my sadness to be othered from me just as I don’t want my happiness to be othered. They’re both mine. I made them, dammit.” Making music lets me hold my contradictions, lets me be me.


Written by:

Rate it

Post comments (0)

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Electro Music Newsletter

Don't miss a beat

Sign up for the latest electronic news and special deals


    By signing up, you understand and agree that your data will be collected and used subject to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

    Generated by Feedzy
    Verified by MonsterInsights