Guest pianist to perform at GVSU

GVL / Courtesy - 

GVL / Courtesy – MIKA SASAKI

Olivia Conaty

Kicking off the first guest artist recital at Grand Valley State University in the new year, pianist Mika Sasaki will be performing Friday, Jan. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the Sherman Van Solkema Recital Hall in the Haas Center for Performing Arts.

Sasaki grew up in Demarest, New Jersey, and started studying piano at a young age. She began playing piano with musician Olegna Fuschi at the Juilliard Pre-College in New York when she was seven years old.

Sasaki’s talent was evident early on in her studies: She made her concerto debut with the Sinfonia of Cambridge when she was seven years old, the age she began taking lessons. 

Sookkyung Cho, assistant professor of piano at GVSU, said Sasaki is the perfect example of an artist whom students should look up to. 

“I think that one must be a musician first before being a pianist, and one must be an artist first before being a musician,” Cho said via email. “I think students will see a great example in Ms. Sasaki.”

According to GVSU’s event page on Sasaki, she has performed at many venues around the world, including the Palazzo Chigi-Saracini in Italy, Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall in Japan and the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan concert hall.

At the guest recital, Sasaki will be playing six pieces from the works of Sergei Rachmaninoff, Thomas Adès, Franz Schubert and Alexander Scriabin. 

Her highly acclaimed solo debut album, “Obsidian: Mika Sasaki plays Clara Schumann,” was released in 2016, and the album can be found on all streaming services. 

While students today have music at their fingertips through multiple streaming services, Cho thinks live music is an enriching experience that students of all majors should take advantage of here at GVSU.

“There is something very special about being in the same room while music is being created in real time,” Cho said. “No matter what your major is, I think we can always learn from someone who is dedicated to what he/she does.”

Cho also explained that while there are many chamber music and orchestral concerts around the Grand Rapids area, it is rare to hear a solo recital.

“I love listening to pianists who play with a sincere heart and a sense of commitment,” Cho said. “Also, those whose playing reflects a sense of awe and respect for the composers and their pieces. I try to invite those whose playing I remember as such.”

Sasaki is currently completing her doctorate at The Juilliard School in New York, where she teaches various courses. She also instructs middle school piano students in Queens, New York. 

On Saturday, Jan. 20, the day after the recital, Sasaki will be leading a master class workshop with GVSU piano students at 10 a.m. in 1325 Sherman Van Solkema Recital Hall. 

More information about Sasaki’s background, awards, teachings and samples of her music can be found at