The Kennedy Center

Yoko Owada


Yoko Owada began her career as a professional flutist at the age of fourteen. She honed her skills and talent at the Karuizawa Music Summer School and Festival, Karuizawa, Nagano Prefucture, Japan, where she is currently on the faculty and is much sought after as a teacher.  She graduated from Toho Gakuen Music High School, Tokyo, Conservatoire National Superieur Musique de Paris (The Paris Conservatory of Music), and Freiburg Musik Hochschule, Germany (Soloist Course), where she studied under Liliko Hayashi, Tadashi Mori, Jean Pierre Rampal, and Aurele Nicolet.  In 1980, while still a student, Ms. Owada made her New York debut at Carnegie Hall, winning first place in the East & West Artists Audition for Young Performers.  In 1986 she received the Carnegie Soloist Prize, one of her many international awards.

Working with the Japan Foundation’s Japanishces Kulturinstitut Koln, she helped introduce Japanese to the Middle-East, travelling and performing widely in the region. 

In 1985, after a successful all-J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel sonatas recital entitled “Offerings from 300 light years,” Ms. Owada began a journey to fulfill her “spiritual medium and musical soul,” traveling first to Turkey, Greek and Egypt.  She then secluded herself in practice the mountains of Karuizawa, resulting in many widely acclaimed concerts and recordings, including “The Flute and Yugen” on the Noh stage of Hikone Castle, performances of “Beautiful Rituals – From Heaven’s Memory” in Tokyo Tessenkai-NOU Theater, “Beautiful Rituals – Messages from Time Immemorial” in Tokyo Casals Hall, and the 4 CD set “Flute Message from Yoko.” In 1991, she became the first to perform all three of Mozart’s flute concerti at the Suntory Hall in Tokyo, in a program titled “The Day Mozart Awaited For.”

Ms. Owada collaborates frequently with Japanese composers, Noh performers, and many other prestigious international artists. In May 2009, she received an award from the Japanese Ambassador in Uruguay, and in December 2009, she performed for His Imperial Highness, the Emperor of Japan on the occasion of his birthday. In March 2010, she performed at the sakura (cherry tree) planting ceremony in Iceland.

Tragedy struck when her family home in Iwaki City was burnt to the ground and her mother killed in the wake of the massive earthquake off Japan’s coast on March 11, 2011. Refusing to let adversity keep her down, Ms. Oward traveled to Vietnam and Paris several times in the following months to honor previously made performance commitments. 

This past December, Ms. Owada received the Japan Record’s Academy Award for “Chansons Malaies,” the last work of Maestro Dan Ikuma.  Also in December, she was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall with American composer Tim Janis at his “Tim Janis Christmas Carol Show.”  Her playing of Mr. Janis’s “Ocean Heights” was deemed a rousing success and a repeat performance of the same is scheduled for the end of this year.

This evening, Yoko Owada is pleased and honored to have Mr. Janis and his ensemble from Maine join her along with her longtime friend Laura Swartz, whose music was instrumental in bringing Ms. Owada and Mr. Janis together.

Watch Past Performances

Video 4/12/2012: Yoko Owada and Tim Janis Ensemble

The acclaimed Japanese flutist performs a musical program. Part of the 2012 National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Yoko Owada