Interview of Yuki Akaishi by Joyce Huang
1. When did you start singing?
I first started singing in Jr. High after listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas CD. I also sang for fun when I walked home from school. The street that I walked on was always busy and loud with cars, so singing gave me something else to listen to other than the noise.
2. Have you always wanted to be a music major?
Nope. I was accepted into UCLA as a Molecular Biology major. I applied for that major because I thought it would have the least amount of chemistry classes. I was very, very wrong. I love biology, but not enough to take all the other prerequisites at UCLA. I also realized that music had always been my passion. Somehow, I was always making music – composing, performing, recording, teaching, etc. I felt God gave me the gift of music and called me to pursue it as a vocation. After much support and affirmation from others, I decided to audition for UCLA’s school of music that winter. I was accepted and started the music program in the fall of my 2nd year.
3. What instruments do you play?
I play piano, guitar, and I sing. I can also play trombone, alto sax, and marimba.
4. What kind of musical style do you incorporate in your singing?
Jazz has always been a big inspiration. Jazz singing is amazing because jazz vocalists use their voices as instruments. They put a lot of thought into the delivery of the lyrics, phrasing, and dynamics. Jazz singers also focus on the music and how their voice can contribute to the overall musical composition. They are not singing to impress.
The folk, pop singers, and songwriters I like are Sarah McLaughlin, Joni Mitchell, Priscilla Ahn, and Brooke Fraser. These artists are very influential in my music because they focus on storytelling in their singing. Like the jazz style, their voices are very laid back, simple, and beautiful.
5. I heard you are part of an a capella group at UCLA. Can you tell us more about that?
During my freshman year at UCLA, my friend Vera, whom I met through AACF (a campus fellowship), introduced me to Clement. At the time he was a sophomore pre-med student who saw the need for Christ to be represented in the a cappella scene on campus. Clement brought together 10 Christian singers he knew and together we formed Road to Damascus a cappella. The name was taken from Acts 9, where Saul experiences a life-changing encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Through our music, we seek to point listeners to God, whether they know Him or not.
Because of my musical experience in directing and singing in choir, I served as musical director for the first two years, then served as president during my third year. Building an a cappella group from the ground up has been a humbling and empowering experience. From opening doors for musical gigs to providing the perfect combination of brothers and sisters in Christ for fellowship and encouragement, I was able to see tangible ways that God went before us and faithfully provided for us. Being a part of RtD has been one of the major influences in my college experience. It has taught me the importance of having blind faith and trusting in the Lord.
6. What do you hope to accomplish through your musical talents for God?
I want to honor God and point others toward Him in my music. For now, the specific plan is to go into the CCM music industry (Contemporary Christian Music) because of the lack of Asian American artists in the genre, and write songs that facilitate worship.
7. What else do you like to do on your free time?
During my free time, I like to do things with my hands like painting my nails and cooking. I also like to hang out with my fiance or go shopping!
8. Is there anything that you would like to say to any young and aspiring musicians out there?
Fear God, not man. God sees not as man sees. Rather, He looks at the heart. As artists, God calls us to use our talent for His glory! This can be applied in many aspects – from being wise in choosing edifying topics/words (as opposed to vulgar), to how you present yourself to others (prideful/humble). Also, know that our art, no matter how amazing it may be, pales in comparison to God’s glory and splendor! But He is pleased with it because we are His children, forgiven and redeemed through Jesus dying on the cross for our sake.