May 16, 2019

MSM Spotlight:
Graduating students Toby Winarto (BM ’19) and Ken Yanagisawa (MM ’19)


Classical violist Toby Winarto and conductor Ken Yanagisawa graduated last Friday, May 10 during Manhattan School of Music’s 93rd Commencement Ceremony. The two students share a passion for photography and videography, and have helped capture life at MSM through their lenses, from the #MSMspotlight project to recording Opera mainstage teaser videos.

We spoke with Toby and Ken the day before Commencement to discuss their favorite MSM memories and what advice they would pass on to incoming students.

You’re graduating from MSM tomorrow! How does it feel?

Toby: It’s surreal! I can’t believe that it’s actually happening and that I’m really a senior. However, I’m looking forward to coming back to MSM next year to continue studying with Samuel Rhodes.

Ken: As a Masters student my two years here felt really short, so I’m coming back to MSM for my Professional Studies Certificate next year! I’ll be continuing to study with George Manahan, who is one of the most approachable and brilliant people I’ve ever met. The time flies so quickly and I’ve had so much fun, so I’m excited to come back.

Ken Yanagisawa, Conductor (MM ’19) and parents (left) and Toby Winarto, Viola (BM ’19) on Commencement Day. Photos by Brian Hatton.

What’s your favorite memory from your time at MSM?

Toby: One time we had a reading with Leonard Slatkin of pieces from Star Wars and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. The Star Wars reading was really fun, and we blasted through it — it was loud and awesome. But when we started playing the first movement of the Tchaikovsky piece, Maestro Slatkin stopped us and said, “I’m going to do something that I don’t usually do, I just want to see if you guys will follow me… let’s start at letter G.” So we began playing again, and he started to do all this crazy stuff with the tempos and dynamics, pushing and pulling us all over the place, and I could feel the entire orchestra following his every move — it was an incredible feeling. That was one of the greatest rehearsal experiences of my life, and it was only a reading.

Ken: I was sitting in the back of that rehearsal — it was magical! I had the opportunity to work with Maestro Slatkin during the Centennial Concert at Carnegie Hall last month, and for an entire week during the MSM/Leonard Slatkin Conductor’s Project, which was probably the highlight of my time here. What makes MSM’s program so unique is that the conducting students get to assist every orchestra cycle and have an incredible amount of access to guest conductors. We can chat over coffee and form personal relationships with the likes of Jane Glover, Perry So, Roderick Cox, Daniela Candillari, and other top conductors in the industry, and you don’t typically have this level of interaction and collaboration at other schools.

To be a trailblazer, you have to ask for advice and never stop learning.

Conducting, MM '19

Tell us about your experience working as photographers and videographers on campus!

Ken: As a photographer, I’ve always been interested in visual storytelling and its interplay with music. When I’m shooting a performance my knowledge as a conductor gives me an advantage — knowing the score ahead of time helps me to identify where the “Kodak moment” is going to happen, and photography is all about anticipating those moments to capture them in real time. It’s definitely a passion of mine, right up there with music, but not quite the same.

Toby: I’ve really enjoyed contributing and telling these important MSM stories. It’s great to be a part of it all!

What piece of advice would you pass on to incoming students?

Toby: My advice for anyone new to MSM, especially undergraduate students, is to try to widen your perspective in terms of musical learning. Take as many classes as you can with many different teachers — MSM has such an amazing faculty, and it’s great to hear their take on different aspects of music. Make an effort to get into their classes, drop in on their lectures, or even talk to other students who study with them. It will open up your mind to completely new worlds and ideas that will ultimately help hone your craft.

Ken: My advice would just be to stay hungry. As with anything in life, you can’t expect things to be served to you on a silver platter. MSM has so many resources available to students that aren’t curriculum requirements, so the more you get involved outside of the minimum expectations, the more you will benefit and thrive during your time here. To be a trailblazer, you have to ask for advice and never stop learning, because there are a lot of people who have the same talent and skills that you do.