in: News & Features

January 13, 2018

Yuko Hayashi Remembered

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Yuko Hayashi, international concert artist and professor of organ at New England Conservatory, Boston, died of natural causes on January 7, 2018 under hospice care at The Residence at Salem Woods, Salem NH.  She was 88.

Yuko Hayashi was born in Hiratsuka, Japan on November 2, 1929. For more than 40 years she was professor of organ at the New England Conservatory and department chair for 30 years. As a performer, she concertized extensively on three continents – Asia, North America, and Europe, giving recitals and masterclasses in Japan, South Korea, the United States of America, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. She was the recipient of the coveted Arion Award from the Cambridge Society for Early Music as an “outstanding performer and master teacher of the historical organ”. She was also awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from the New England Conservatory.

Ms. Hayashi graduated with a degree in organ performance from Tokyo University of the Arts in 1948 and for five years was organist for the symphony orchestra of NHK, the Japanese national broadcasting company. She came to the United States in 1953 on scholarship, sponsored by PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization) and studied for one year at Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri. She then transferred to the New England Conservatory in Boston where she was awarded three degrees in organ performance: Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Artist Diploma.  In 1960 she began teaching at the conservatory, and was appointed chair of the department in 1969 by then president Gunther Schuller. Her primary teachers were George Faxon, Donald Willing, Anton Heiller, and Gustav Leonhardt (harpsichord).

Her frequent travels to Europe began in 1966 when she went to the Haarlem Organ Academy in Holland and began life-long associations with Anton Heiller, Luigi Tagliavini, and Marie-Claire Alain. In 1971, she studied with Michel Chapuis in France, and was introduced to many historic organs in North Germany and Holland by Harald Vogel and Klaas Bolt. This was the beginning of many exchanges of concerts and masterclasses across the Atlantic Ocean between Boston and Europe. It was during this time that Ms. Hayashi became organist of Old West Church in

Boston, performing on a new mechanical action organ built by Charles B. Fisk.  She served as organist there for nearly 40 years and was the founder and executive director of the Old West Organ Society until her retirement in 2010. Concert artists who collaborated in teaching with Ms. Hayashi in Boston included Guy Bovet, Jean Boyer, Umberto Pineschi, Joan Lippincott, Roberta Gary, Karel Paukert, Bill Porter, Mireille Lagacé, Frank Taylor, Robert Schunemann, Donald Teeters, Peter Sykes, Christa Rakich, James David Christie, Michael Radulescu, Peter Planyavsky, Francesco Cera, and Jon Gillock. 

Since 1970, Ms. Hayashi crossed the Pacific Ocean yearly to give recitals and masterclasses in Japan. With Italian organist, Umberto Pineschi, and the assistance of Japanese organ builder Hiroshi Tsuji and his wife, Toshiko Tsuji, she founded the Italian Organ Academy in Shirakawa. She was extremely influential in persuading organ committees from universities, churches, and concert halls to purchase mechanical action organs from outstanding organ builders from around the world. Most noteworthy are the instruments for International Christian University (Rieger from Austria), Toyota City Concert Hall (Brombaugh from USA), Minato Mirai Concert Hall, Yokohama (C. B. Fisk from USA) and Ferris University, Yokohama (Taylor & Boody, Fritz Noack, and JF Nordlie organs from USA).

In 1989, Yuko Hayashi took a leave of absence from the New England Conservatory to accept a position as professor of organ at Ferris University, Yokohama. She taught there for six years before returning to Boston. She also became Titular Organist at St. Luke’s International Hospital Chapel which houses an organ built by Marc Garnier of France. She was responsible for transporting a historic 1889 organ built by the Boston organ building firm of Hook & Hastings to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Yokohama where her father served as Anglican priest for many years.

Two brothers, Makoto Hayashi and Satoru Hayashi, and several nieces and nephews survive Yuko Hayashi, all residing in Japan. Over her career, she has taught over 500 students and leaves a lasting legacy through them.

A memorial service for Yuko Hayashi will be held at Christ Church, Andover on

Saturday, April 28 at 11:00 a.m.  All are cordially invited to attend. Memorial contributions in memory of Yuko Hayashi may be made to:

Yuko Hayashi

Old West Organ Society
c/o Jeffrey Mead, Treasurer
72 Trenton Street Melrose, Massachusetts USA  02176

St. Andrew’s Cathedral
14-57 Mitsuzawa-shimo-cho Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama City Kanagawa, 221-0852 JAPAN

St. Luke’s International Hospital Chapel c/o Organ Committee
9-1 Akashi-cho
Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 140-8560 JAPAN

Barbara Bruns is Associate Conductor of the Boston Cecilia and Minister of Music at Christ Church, Andover.

3 Comments

  1. I am saddened to hear of the death of Yuko Hayashi. But I honor the memory of a fine musician and a life well lived. This well-wrought tribute doesn’t mention that the Organ Department at the New England Conservatory doesn’t really exist any more, or that the organ in Jordan Hall, on which Ms. Hayashi performed to great renown, is no longer in playable condition.

    I remember with pleasure a moment when I met Ms. Hayashi in person, in 1985, when I gave a lecture at NEC and a few of us went out for dinner afterward. Ms. Hayashi was among them, and I told her, “I remember an exciting broadcast on WGBH in 1955 or 1956, when I heard you play Liszt’s massive Fantasy and Fugue on ‘Ad nos, ad salutarem undam.'” She smiled and said, “That was for my Master’s degree recital. I’ve never played it since.”

    Comment by Mark DeVoto — January 13, 2018 at 10:56 am

  2. I met her in 1967 at one of Heiller’s Harvard recitals and we stayed friends. On one social visit I helped position her new tower speakers right next to her bed, for quietest late-night listening and also maximum impact, as she explained. The following reminiscence, which she dictated for Si Fisk’s and my ‘Heiller at Harvard’ CD set, is sweet, enthusiastic, altogether typical:

    http://organfocus.com/anton-heiller-the-legendary-performances-at-harvard-university/#4

    Comment by david moran — January 13, 2018 at 1:52 pm

  3. Such a loving tribute Ms. Bruns has written about Yuko Hayashi.When I was a student at NEC she was already teaching there and considered by me and many others to be an icon- Such a remarkable musician but also such a modest and charming person ! To me, she still exemplifies the best sort of musician one could aspire to become. RIP !

    Comment by D'Anna Fortunato — January 24, 2018 at 8:21 pm

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