Kudos to 18-year-old pianist and music entrepreneur Naoko Sakata. Along with a team of peers, her “Musicians’ Dream Aid,” founded in 2015 as a Canadian charitable organization, supports other young musicians needing financial support to pursue their music education. “There are many young musicians with talent and dedication whose families are simply not able to afford it,” she says.
Sakata is finishing her studies at the Taylor Academy of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto before heading off to the Conservatoire de Musique in Quebec City. She hopes to pursue piano pedagogy in addition to continuing Musicians’ Dream Aid and establishing other service projects.
“I have always had an interest in business, especially in philanthropy, ever since I was little,” says Sakata. “The idea of starting an organization that gives scholarships to young musicians came to me after seeing so many talented make tremendous sacrifices year after year in order to pursue music education. I decided that I wanted to fund the scholarships through our concert series, ‘Crescendo,’ because of the fantastic experience I had in performing at a benefit concert myself when I was younger.”
Musicians’ Dream Aid provides two annual scholarships for Canadian students or those studying in Canada. These are funded by donors and through ticket sales at MDA concerts. Last year, a composer’s competition was offered by MDA; this year, a performance competition is in the works.
Sakata recognizes the challenges she’s taken on in creating her own organization. The biggest takeaway? “In order to get opportunities, you have to take action and create them yourself,” she acknowledges. “Before starting MDA, I performed in concerts and participated in music competitions, but I did not do much that would be considered unusual for a serious music student.
“Starting MDA has given me numerous opportunities outside of the organization itself. Because of MDA, I have performed in front of the Countess of Wessex, I have met with prominent people in the classical music community, and I will participate in a chamber music program at the Banff Centre this summer. These are only a few of the things that happened to me after starting my organization. I never imagined my life would change so much, and in retrospect, knowing this would have probably encouraged me to take initiative earlier.”