Arts and Humanities People and Community

A masterclass with Yoshiki

The Japanese rock legend Yoshiki shares his passion for music during a visit to the University of Miami Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music.
Japanese composer, pianist, and rock drummer Yoshiki conducted a masterclass at the Frost School of Music.
Japanese rock legend Yoshiki taught a masterclass at the Frost School of Music. Photo: Evan Garcia/University of Miami

Fans of Yoshiki sat inside the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall Thursday in silent anticipation, and the Japanese rock legend surprised and thrilled the audience with a rare piano performance. 

“Every single show I do, I perform it like if it’s my last one. I always put my whole heart into it,” said Yoshiki, the iconic composer, pianist, rock drummer, and leader of the rock group X Japan. 

It was an unforgettable day at the Frost School of Music where students and fans had the opportunity to hear and learn from the superstar firsthand during a masterclass. Frost School Dean Shelton Berg moderated the class where people who attended experienced a candid side of Yoshiki who spoke about his early life. 

“I lost my dad when I was 10. He took his own life. Without music, I could have never survived. Music was able to give me this life I live today,” Yoshiki said.

Yoshiki told the crowd that to get through a tragedy, he has always turned to music as a form of therapy. He hopes to one day get involved in the research behind it, even mentioning how he would be interested in taking a course in the unique music therapy program at the Frost School of Music. 

“I always think about how I survived my hard times, but I’m still here and breathing because of music,” he said. “One day I hope to investigate the feeling music brings to a person. I want to prove it scientifically.”

Throughout the class, Berg and Yoshiki shared their experiences working together on several notable projects. Among their various collaborations were the “Golden Globe Awards” theme song, along with two sold-out performances and a PBS special at Carnegie Hall. 

“Every time I work with Yoshiki he always has such a clear vision of what he wants and he doesn’t settle for anything outside of that visualization. It takes a lot of courage and clarity to be able to do that,” Berg said.

Yoshiki also spoke highly about their collaborations. 

“He is an amazing teacher who has taught me a variety of things, including orchestration. I’m still learning every day from everyone I’m surrounded by on a daily basis like my friends and fans,” he added. 

Other extraordinary artists Yoshiki has worked with include the late Sir George Martin of the Beatles, Drummer Roger Taylor from the band Queen and the legendary rock band KISS.

 A lesson Yoshiki wanted to make clear to students is that technique is not the only characteristic that determines success.

“Someone could have good technique and play the piano, but using the music to convey your emotions is the most important thing. When I look for people to collaborate with I make sure that person inspires me and has passion for music,” said Yoshiki. 

The rock star’s appearance brought praise from students throughout campus who were able to experience the exclusive masterclass. 

“My mom is Japanese so he’s always been one of those people who we would always hear about. To be able to meet him and hear what he had to say was really inspirational,” said Emily Collins, a senior in the Miami Business School. 

Along with hosting the masterclass, Yoshiki donated $150,000 on behalf of his non-profit organization, the Yoshiki Foundation America. In Yoshiki’s honor, Berg’s office suite will officially be named after him. 

“I have had the privilege of working and knowing Yoshiki for many years,” Berg said. “He is an extraordinary artist and humanitarian and I am so honored my dean’s suite will now carry his name.”