Lee W. Kikuchi opened the Kikuchi Music Institute (KMI) to its first student in August 2003, but the music school was a project in the making since December 2000 and even years before that. A graduate from Oberlin College in 1991, with majors in both Music Composition and Computer Science, Mr. Kikuchi spent over 10 years working in the medical and information technology fields. All the time, he was hoping one day to teach music and share his gifts and love for music with the next generation of young people. Living those years in small rental properties, the only thing stopping him was having a presentable studio in which to teach.
In December 2000, he was fortunate enough to find and purchase a 14 room Victorian house on the Northside of Pittsburgh, that was amazingly suited to music teaching because of the many rooms on the first floor, and his dream of building a music school soon began to flourish. Finally, the following summer, when he thought he was ready and after he had done some much needed home improvements, he decided to quit his job at a local hospital in order to become a full-time music teacher.
Unfortunately, the tragedy of a house fire on September 10, 2001 delayed that dream, not only because of the need to rebuild his home, but because without his home he had no place to teach. Instead he had to put his dream on hold and find temporary jobs to pay the bills. While he was displaced by the home restoration, he met Randall Christner, who was also a fine pianist and musician. Mr. Kikuchi realized that together, they had the combined talents needed to start a real music school with the ability to offer private instruction in piano, voice, violin, cello, viola, flute, composition, organ and saxophone. Finally, in August 2003, they had the money to begin advertising in the local Pennysaver, and soon the students started coming.
Since that time, the school has grown to over 60 students, and we have expanded our faculty with the recent hiring of an instructor for guitar, banjo and electric bass, and an instructor for drums. We hold recitals every October and March, we plan field trips to the Pittsburgh Symphony and we have students who participate and do well in local competitions. Both Mr. Kikuchi and Mr. Christner hold offices in the Pittsburgh Piano Teachers Board of Directors, and contribute substantially to their activities.
At this point, 98% of our student body is still in the beginning years (what we call the “Core Curriculum”), but our reputation is spreading quickly and we are beginning to get transfer students at the more advanced levels from other teachers. Soon, we will have over 100 students, and we anticipate being able to form performing ensembles such as a string orchestra, chamber wind ensemble, quartets, or choir in only a couple years.
We are continually in the process of recruiting additional faculty to provide instruction in areas not met by our current faculty, namely: woodwinds (other than flute) and brass. Our facilities can easily accommodate 200 students when fully utilized and even when we reach maximum capacity, we have the ability to expand with very little construction and renovation.
Eventually, we expect our Young Artist Program to achieve national recognition as our students audition to and are accepted to the nation’s leading conservatories and music schools. The curriculum for this program is still under development, but we anticipate accepting our first students into the program in the Fall of 2006.
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