2019 IAC Interviews: Mio Fujimoto

We are counting down the weeks until Southern California Marimba’s 2nd International Artist Competition! Things look a lot different this time due to the pandemic, but we are looking forward to it and hope it will still be a great experience for everyone. 

While this year’s semi-finalists prepare for the 2nd round of the competition, we reached out to the winners from our first International Artist Competition. We wanted to know what they’ve been up to since we last saw them in 2019.

We’ve heard from our Scholastic and Collegiate Solo Category winners, Wan Yoon and Jason Chen. Today, we are sharing our interview with Mio Fujimoto! She and her duo partner, Jason Chen, placed first in the Open Duo Category, tying with Filament Duo (who we’ll hear from later this week!).


Mio Fujimoto is a Japanese marimbist and percussionist residing in Japan. She was awarded 1st place at SCM’s 2019 International Artist Competition with partner Jason Chen in the Open Duo Category. Mio performed in Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY THE JOURNEY OF 100 in Osaka in 2015, and she was also selected to perform the 48th New Face Concert at Okayama in 2015, the Young Musician Concert Vol.2 and Vol.6 at Mimasaka in 2016 and 2020. 

While completing her Master’s degree, she coordinated a Violin and Marimba Duo Concert with violinist Alec Norkey, premiering 2 pieces by young composers in 2018. Mio received her Bachelor’s degree in Percussion performance from Osaka Kyoiku University in Japan, and Master’s degree in Marimba Performance from Boston Conservatory at Berklee. She is a student of Nancy Zeltsman, Nanae Mimura, Atsuko Hiramatsu, Kyle Brightwell, and Samuel Solomon. 

Mio is a marimba artist at KOROGI Marimba.   

What have you been up to since we last saw you?

– I graduated from Boston Conservatory at Berklee in 2020, and went back to Japan in the summer. Soon after that, I got an offer to be a KOROGI marimba artist. Besides being a musician, I have taught English for young children and high schoolers for 7 months. It’s a good job for me to keep studying and improving my English skills! Recently I started a duo project with pianist Maho Yamaguchi. We hope to start posting our recordings on social media and have performances in the near future!

How were you first introduced to marimba?

– I played percussion in the brass band club in my middle school. Flute was my first choice, but my teacher gave me a percussion position in the band. I was more into snare drum until I heard the sound of a 5-octave marimba. As soon as I heard the deep and warm sound, I fell in love. I found that marimba can make many different colors of sound, and I thought I would never feel tired of hearing this beautiful sound.

What kind of physical preparation do you do before playing?

– I used to massage my hands before playing the marimba. But I started thinking of how I can warm up my whole body in a short time. Yoga didn’t work well for me, so now I do one exercise called radio taiso (radio calisthenics) which is about a 3 minute long exercise designed in the 1920s in Japan for anyone at any age. This easy, simple and short warm up is great for me to get ready to play the marimba.

How did you prepare for the 2019 IAC?

– I recorded myself many times to see how my sound and phrases are heard objectively. In addition to physical practice, I focused on mental practice which helped me to think more deeply about how I want to play. Also, I often imagined being on stage and having many audience members, because I needed to overcome my bad performance anxiety. I still get nervous, but this practice lets me concentrate on my performance even with this tension.

Most memorable moment at the 2019 IAC?

– I loved the atmosphere made by all of the organizers, judges, and participants. Everyone was very friendly and we had chances to have lunch/dinner together. I believe this is one reason that I was able to perform almost as usual.  

How are you taking care of your mental health right now?

– Petting my cat is the most helpful way for me to stay mentally healthy these days. Besides that, I try to sleep at least 8 hours every day. Oftentimes, I felt depressed or stressed out when I had lack of sleep before. Having enough sleep helps me to reset my mind/brain and feel refreshed. Other than that, I sometimes make a detour on my way home and sing my favorite songs while I am driving. 

Check out Mio’s YouTube channel to see some of her amazing performances!

And here is her winning performance of “Three Transformations” with duo partner Jason Chen during the 2019 IAC Finals Round.

Thank you Mio for sharing your heartfelt love of marimba with us! We can’t wait to check out your marimba and piano duo!

2019 IAC Winners Interview Series: Wan Yoon, Jason Chen

Have you marked your calendar for the 2021 International Artist Competition? Learn more here.

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