Mao Soné


The considerable distance between Boston and Chiba, Japan didn’t deter Mao Soné from traveling around the world to follow his passion. After taking a master class with faculty member Tiger Okoshi in 2008, the 16-year-old Soné knew he was interested in both jazz and Berklee. Then Okoshi invited him to attend his jazz camp in Hokkaido two weeks later and offered him a scholarship. He went, and he subsequently won a scholarship to study at Berklee. Now majoring in jazz composition and performance and planning to graduate in the spring of 2015, Soné’s interest in communicating and forming a “society of music” through jazz has been expanded and refined during his time with the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. “My focus is to get the chance to reach people all over the world,” he says.

Watch the Mao Soné Quartet perform live at Berklee:

Q: How would you describe your music before you started working with the professors, artists in residence, and other students at the Berklee Global Jazz Institute?

A: When I went to the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, I couldn’t really understand what jazz is. For me, I came from Japan, and I studied European music, but at the same time, I was hearing my grandma—my grandma is a shamisen player, and that’s Japanese traditional music—so now I’m trying to involve two different styles and put them together and write my own story in the language of jazz. That’s what I am trying to do now.

Q: How important is the international aspect of the BGJI for you? Has that added to the program for you?

A: Absolutely. When I went to Spain with the BGJI and Danilo Pérez, I learned a love of Spanish music. There were two Indian musicians, and they were playing, in Spanish music, they were playing with an Indian text. Musicians who play Spanish music and Indian music have their own way to tell the story through their music, like they have their own languages. When they played with us, or when they played jazz, they still spoke their languages but they knew how to share the space with us. This experience taught me that each musician should have his or her personality in music, but the most important thing is to have the ability to share the space and channel with others. Especially now, jazz is not a music played by only Americans anymore. Jazz has so much potential to put all cultures together and develop. 

Q: What has been your favorite experience so far with the BGJI?

A: I would say the first trip with the BGJI was memorable for me. I went to the Monterey Jazz Festival with Joe Lovano. That was a great memory for me. It was the first time I saw the West Coast of America, and it was so beautiful, and [there were] great people, a great, huge festival, and the music was so nice; it is still in my heart. The other great fact [about being] in the BGJI is we have so many masters giving us the story that they got from the giants, like Dizzy Gillespie, Wayne Shorter. They have the story, so we experience it from them. That’s the most important thing from the BGJI, I think, [along with] making best friends and meeting other musicians your age who you can create a society of music with, because that’s what music is supposed to create.