By Stephen Wilson

A meaningful evening that acknowledged home and mentorship highlighted the collaborative performance between Hub New Music, a contemporary chamber ensemble, and Kojiro Umezaki ’91, noted shakuhachi player.

The program, called Tied Together, marked an eastern and western conversation with music spanning multiple continents in pieces composed by professionals from the Asia/America New Music Institute.

Three members of Hub New Music laugh while one looks directly at the camera

Hub New Music includes Phillipsburg native Michael Avitable, who plays the flute

It served as a homecoming for two musicians. Michael Avitable, flutist, with Hub New Music, grew up in Phillipsburg, N.J. He fondly remembered seeing Williams Center for the Arts signs as a child and knew “that’s where the famous people play.” He told himself that someday he’d be among them.

Umezaki shared how powerful it was for him to receive a handwritten letter from Stockton, mailed to him in Tokyo while he was still in high school. Although Umezaki sought a degree in computer science, Stockton had heard Umezaki play shakuhachi and wrote to explain his passion for the instrument and that Lafayette would be a perfect fit to study both.

Larry Stockton conducting

Prof. J. Larry Stockton ends a 45-year career this season with his final performances

Umezaki’s homecoming was tied in part to the retirement of a mentor. J. Larry Stockton, professor of music, department head, and director of the percussion ensemble, ends a 45-year career this season with his final performances.

That letter worked. “It’s a rare and special gesture that captures who Larry is and how a college like Lafayette works,” said Umezaki, who has gone on to play with Yo-Yo Ma’s distinguished Silk Road Ensemble and earn multiple Grammy awards.

Kojiro Umezaki playing a shakuhachi

Kojiro Umezaki ’91 plays a shakuhachi

Umezaki then demonstrated his improvisational prowess while playing a traditional Japanese folk song.

Together, Umezaki and Hub New Music then collaborated on pieces where violin and shakuhachi locked in a sonic battle, where the ensemble melded into a gentle whisper, and where a single note became a linear halo for harmony and color.

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