Successful business models in music

How do you make money in music? To understand how musicians make money, I turn to successful business models. My paternal grandfather made a living teaching English. Teaching music is one of several ways to earn a living in music.

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Flowers for your heart: Subete no Hito no Kokoro ni Hana O (すべての人の心に花を)

From BEGIN’s Hana to Kina’s Hana, Anne Ku is on a quest for nostalgic songs of Okinawa.

No sooner than finding sheet music to BEGIN’s Hana, my retired Japanese language professor friend in California introduced an even more nostalgic song from Okinawa. It’s also called Hana. The composer is Kina Shoukichi (喜納昌吉).

Continue reading “Flowers for your heart: Subete no Hito no Kokoro ni Hana O (すべての人の心に花を)”

The flower of sanshin: san shin no hana 三線の花

A love song played over loud speakers at the 2015 annual Maui Okinawan Festival brought back memories of growing up on Okinawa.

At the annual Maui Okinawan Festival, I heard three youngsters announce the songs they would be dancing to. When one of them added “and this one is my favorite,” I took out my iPhone to record it and began my journey of discovering this famous song about the Okinawan instrument. Continue reading “The flower of sanshin: san shin no hana 三線の花”

Piano music for Veterans Day

Besides the obvious patriotic songs, what music is appropriate in recognition of Veterans Day on November 11th?

No sooner than giving a concert for Halloween, I was ready to research music for Veterans Day.

University of Hawaii Maui College’s Veterans Resource Center (VRC) will recognize this important day on Wednesday November 12th, 2014, with open house from 10 AM to 2 PM. My piano class will be playing music to suit the occasion. [More information at UHMC Music Blog.]

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Class songs of Kubasaki High School

Compiling class songs of Kubasaki High School in Okinawa for a reunion in Williamsburg, Virginia ….

In anticipation of attending my first “official” high school reunion, I asked one of the organizers if there would be a piano at the venue. It was an innocent question. If there’s a piano, then I’d play.Image

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Boston hibiscus in Maui

Rob Judkins’ latest painting Boston Hybrid Hibiscus strikes in chord in Anne Ku who is bound for Maui where hibiscuses are plentiful, but her duo partner Robert Bekkers is bound for Boston.

The announcement of a new acryllic painting by my friend Rob Judkins in Columbus, Georgia made me stop and ponder.

Rob (whom I’ve always called Robby) and I went to high school in Okinawa, Japan where hibiscuses are very common. We have a variety of flowers in our garden in Utrecht, Netherlands — but no hibiscuses. After many years of not seeing such tropical and subtropical flowers in Europe, I nearly forgot how beautiful they are.

When I went to Maui in 2010, I saw them again. Hibiscus reminds me of my wonderful childhood in Okinawa.

Boston Hybrid Hibiscus 4x36 acrylic on canvas by Rob Judkins
Boston Hybrid Hibiscus 4x36 acrylic on canvas by Rob Judkins

Rob Judkins wrote in his e-mail of “Rob’s Latest Painting” the following passage:

The Boston Hybrid Hibiscus is one of my favorite flowers in my yard. The blooms are as large as a dinner plate and last only one day. The plant is about five feet tall and five feet wide. Every morning during June and July and into August there are 10 to 15 new flowers.

Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers is on his way to Boston. I presume the Boston Hybrid Hibiscus comes from Boston otherwise it wouldn’t have the name. I am on my way to Maui. We will live apart for some time to come — he pursuing full-time studies in Boston while I find my feet in Maui juggling my passions of yoga, music, writing, and more.

I hope to see a Boston Hybrid Hibiscus when I am in Maui.

Piano and guitar in acryllic by Rob Judkins

Anne Ku’s high school friend Rob Judkins painted his vision of piano and guitar in acryllic for the Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo’s next CD: Live in Makawao, Maui.

I have not seen or spoken to my friend Robby Judkins, as he was called then, since our graduation from Kubasaki High School in Okinawa. His Japanese wood cut print “Kokoro Kara” still hangs in my London home, reminding me of his extraordinary talent for creating something beautiful. It was Keats who said “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Everyone who has visited or stayed in that Victorian Cottage in Ealing has seen and experienced the beauty that Robby created.

Kokoro kara by Robby Judkins
Kokoro kara wood block print by Robby Judkins

“Kokoro kara” means from the heart. When one creates from the heart, one shares what one feels. I have often wondered about the Japanese wood block print. What were the two figures looking at? What was Robby’s inspiration?

Many years later, I found Robby on Facebook as Rob Judkins. Glancing through his photo album, I saw that he has continued to paint with a clear development into his own style.

I was relieved to see this, for I had heard of too many adults who gave up pursuing their childhood hobby or passion. I nearly did, only to return to music to find myself again. In doing so, I also remembered my dream to be free to travel the world.

I daresay that I am extremely privileged to be on Rob Judkin’s private mailing list — as a recipient of his latest works of art by e-mail.

His latest work is a colourful vision of piano and guitar. Although Rob Judkins has not heard or seen us perform, he has imagined it well. Our music is very exciting –as though the strings fly off the guitar and keys pop out the piano. We always get an adrenaline rush when we play.

Piano and Guitar in acryllic by Rob Judkins (2011)
Piano and Guitar in acryllic by Rob Judkins (2011)

The painting is 32″x48″ acrylic on boxed panel. Rob Judkins calls it “Anne’s instruments” since it was painted specifically for the Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo and the purpose of an album cover. It will be on the cover of our next CD: Makawao Live — a recording of our first public concert in the USA — at the Makawao Union Church in Maui on 29th December 2007.

When asked what inspired him to paint this, Rob wrote, “I wanted to do something different from your last album cover which by the way I thought was very beautiful, highly styled and cool. But this image is free and uninhibited, a feeling of anything goes…..guitar strings popping and piano keys flying. The instruments are alive. Its like the feeling of the music flowing through your body.”

Rob Judkins loves to paint. The majority of his paintings are in acrylics but he has many oils and some water colors. He has a range of sizes from 8″x10″ canvas to pieces as large as a 36″x80″. The majority of his work is hanging at D’Allens Salon and the Columbus Hospice, in Columbus, GA and some pieces at the Joseph House Art Gallery in Columbus, GA.

Rob spent a year and a half at Auburn University School of Arts but changed his career to the school of business. His passion for the arts still drives him to create and achieve interest and quality in his work. He spent his high school years in Okinawa, Japan taking Chinese painting and Japanese wood block printing classes. That influence can be seen in some of his work. Rob likes a wide variety of styles in painting. He will strive to paint a realistic landscape or an abstract painting. He says it doesn’t matter what the results as long as it speaks to someone or provokes a feeling in the individual viewer he has accomplished his purpose.

Rob Judkins’ art portfolio can be viewed from his website at 

Wanted: piano in Maui

The pianist laments for her piano left behind. There are pianos to borrow, to rent, and to buy. But she longs for the piano she cannot have, not to perform but to practise with no one listening.

How long can I stand not having a piano to practise on?

There’s an upright piano (a spinet) at the community centre nearby where I can practise in the afternoons. The first time I tried the piano, it was out of tune. After it got tuned for our short concert, I tried it again. Several groups were playing mah jong. They didn’t mind and even applauded after Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, the only sheet music I had that was remotely Christmassy. The mah jong players invited me to snack with them during the break and gave me Haiku tangerines. “Come back next week,” they said when I was leaving.

A kind lady offered her Steinway grand in south Kihei. It’s at least a half-hour drive to her beautiful home. My sister told me of another place in Kihei with a grand piano that I’ve yet to visit.

There are many churches nearby. I’m sure there are pianos I could use, but first I need to enquire.

Still, I get tempted when I see a piano for sale. Perhaps I just want a piano in my home and not anywhere else.

On Craigslist I spotted pianos for sale: an upright piano — a medium-brown-coloured spinet left behind when the house got sold. The new owners initially advertised it for $300 two weeks ago. Now they changed it to $250 or better offer. I imagine it sitting in the corner in my living room. I would wake up and play it to my heart’s content.

The piano reminds me of the Yamaha console my father had bought brand new for our family. We all learned to play the piano. My mother told me that she took lessons with us because we were the first and only students of our Japanese piano teacher (at that time.) She stopped when our teacher recruited other students. Sadly my father sold the piano after we had grown up and left home. I guess I’m still pining for that piano.

Yamaha upright in Okinawa, Japan
Yamaha upright in Okinawa, Japan

Buying a piano is not a trivial thing. In my article “Buying a piano: a decision maker’s guide,” I advised buyers to get a professional assessment (by a piano technician) before deciding. I did not add that there are costs of moving, tuning, advertising and selling when one leaves.

Why buy a piano if you can rent one? In Houston, I rented a Baldwin upright on a monthly basis for 14 months. I did not have to find a mover or a tuner. One phone call and it arrived. Another phone call and it left. What a joy it was to play! What a joy it was to compose!

Rented Baldwin upright piano in Houston, Texas
Rented Baldwin upright piano in Houston, Texas

What I really want is not a piano in my home but access to a piano in a room (nearby) where I can practise without an audience. When I’m aware of the presence of someone else listening, my playing becomes a performance. What I really miss is being able to practise on a good instrument close by, whenever I want, and for as long as I want.

The guitarist has no longing as such. His guitar is always a heart beat away, anywhere he goes.

Puff the magic Hawaii Dragon in Honolulu

Puff the magic dragon, lived by the sea, and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honolulu! Kubasaki Dragons are the alumni of Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan. They are everywhere. But the ones in Hawaii are really special.

WARNING: The following blog post has nothing to do with concerts or music.

Friday 10 December 2010

The pouring rain interrupted my otherwise peaceful night.

“What time is it?”

“Two a.m.”

I tried to go back to sleep but was bothered by having to wake up soon. I did not hear the alarm ring though I did hear my mother next door.

“Get up, Anne. It’s time to get up.”

It was 4:48 am. There was barely enough time to brush my teeth let alone shower and have breakfast. I quickly changed into my long pastel green 100% cotton dress, which I had purchased at Ross Dress for Less — a store I’ve been going to religiously every Tuesday for their senior discounts. I also put on a long sleeved blue denim jacket which I had bought at TJ Maxx in Houston last month.

“Honey,” I shook Robert from his slumber. “It’s time to go.”

It was still raining outside. It was not supposed to rain. My mom had promised me sunshine every single day on Maui. Where did the rain come from? I was confused. Are we on Maui or are we still back in the Netherlands? Sunny days for the sun-starved are interruptions to one’s daily routines. Here in Maui, no one stops what they’re doing to bake in the sun.

When my mother and I landed in Honolulu at 7 am, it was still raining. We waited over an hour for our ride. By then, it was too late to have a sit-down breakfast. The traffic from the airport to downtown Honolulu was shocking: five lanes of cars packed against each other. I asked the cab driver if we could have avoided this rush-hour phenomenon one hour earlier. His reply was dismal. “It’s like this every day, from 6 am to 10 am — worse on Mondays and Fridays.”

My idea of a tropical paradise started to fade. Is Honolulu just like Singapore? A concrete jungle? We had planned to visit Doris Duke’s Shangri La one day. Surely the rest of Honolulu isn’t like this — rainy, gloomy, and crawling in a traffic jam?

After doing various errands, I phoned Rinsei at 10:30 am. He was a puff of fresh air, full of positive and sunny enthusiasm, much needed after the long gloomy morning. “Hey! Where are you? Are you done? Let me take you to Chinatown.”

“Is there enough time?” My sister had told me about Chinatown. I guess she misses it.

We didn’t have time for dim sum or moon cake but had 20 minutes to order 10 parcels of bamboo “jong” and a roast duck to stuff into my green backpack.

Rinsei, who coordinates the Kubasaki Alumni Group in Hawaii, had met Robert and me at the Honolulu airport three years ago on our first visit and again two weeks ago for Thanksgiving Day. It’s was terrific to get that magic welcome again, this time chauffeuring us to Chinatown and then to the airport.

Hawaii Dragons celebrate Thanksgiving in Honolulu 2010
Hawaii Dragons celebrate Thanksgiving in Honolulu 2010

“I’m sorry I can’t stay the weekend. I would have loved to be able to meet Wes finally,” I said. Wes was arriving from Tokyo the next day before heading to the mainland (USA).

“Next time,” Rinsei assured me that I was always welcome in Oahu. “Irene will cook again for Christmas.”

There are magic dragons in Hawaii. They are the Kubasaki High School alumni who graduated much earlier than I did and left Okinawa, Japan for Hawaii. Somehow I got the feeling that everything was going to be all right.

“I’ll let you know next time I’m bringing my mom to Honolulu.”

Lead guitarist Robert in rock band

About 57 seconds into the youtube clip below, the camera moves to the lead guitarist doing his solo. It was winter of 1987 somewhere in South Holland –

About 57 seconds into the youtube clip below, the camera moves to the lead guitarist doing his solo.

His long blonde hair is twirling around him. You can’t see the blue eyes behind the sunglasses.

Neither can I.

It was winter of 1987 somewhere in South Holland — Maastricht? Limburg? I was in London queuing for Laura Ashley sales.

More than 13 years later, we met in Amsterdam.

The guitarist was Robert Bekkers. He told me he would focus on classical guitar.

I never knew he was such a good lead guitarist in such a great band.

I wonder who the videographer is. Has he, by any chance, a clip of the Funky Caravan, the LoLo’s, or Ku and the Guys? I’d sure like to see the keyboardist. But that was not in the Netherlands at all. Those bands played in Okinawa in the 80’s.


I’ve been told by an informed source that it was NOT in Limburg or anywhere near Maastricht. It was in Veldhoven, in blues cafe called the Lozzie. Click on the youtube link and read the comments on the right for more details.

I just remembered also that I was not in London that winter of 1987 but in Singapore or Malaysia. How time flies!