Outstanding pianist gives up performance status to teach the young

As the final notes are played, the audience is silent, as if in a trance. The last notes are loud and strong, waking them up. They stand and applaud, still shocked. This is what it feels like to go to one of Yoko Sata Kothari’s concerts.

“I always knew that music was my path,” Kothari said.

The audience of Yoko Sata Kothari, a classical Lake Park concert pianist, experiences this reaction at every concert. Even at a young age, Kothari received many awards and accomplishments for her piano playing.

“My first performance was when I was eight, for the Japan Youth Competition,” Kothari said.

Starting at the young age of four, until performing at the Japan Youth Competition, before winning first place in her age group. She kept on performing and playing until she hit the opportunity that would change her life forever.

“I immediately called my mother and told her the news,” Kothari said.

In 2017, Kothari played at the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition, winning first place. But there was one part of the prize that the judges didn’t tell her.

“I felt honored by being invited because there were many performers in the past that had played here,” Kothari said.

Since Kothari had won first place, she was invited to play a 15 minute concert in Carnegie Hall, one of the most prestigious music halls in the world. Despite being on the top of the world, she decided to turn to teaching.

“It wasn’t initially the plan,” Kothari said.

Even though teaching kids was a big change from what she used to do, she found that she can take her love for piano and help her student love the piano too.

“I think no other teacher could have helped me progress as much as Mrs. Yoko,” one of Kothari’s students, Maggie Prikyan, said.

But for some people, Kothari is more than just a teacher.

“Mrs. Yoko is not only a great teacher, pianist, and friend, but she is also a mentor to all her students,” Tulia Leon, mother of one of Kothari’s students, said.

Kothari has taught students more than just piano. She has taught them life lessons.

“It’s the idea of understanding that you won’t always get it the first time but if you keep trying, it will eventually sound beautiful,” one of Kothari’s former students, Camila Leon, said.

“It was very difficult for me. At one point, I only had six students,” Kothari said.

Kothari thought she was on top of the world, but then things started to go downhill.

In April, the pandemic hit and a lockdown order was issued. After that, businesses gradually started opening but people were still scared of the COVID-19 virus. Kothari’s studio was one of the many businesses that got hit. She had very few students at one point but she kept going. Things started getting better, but in the end, she had lost 30 percent of her students permanently.

“Mrs. Yoko has persevered through many things, but she keeps going and that’s what I think is the best trait about her,” Tulia Leon said.

Even though she has had many problems, she keeps going. She practices six hours a day and teaches almost every day. Whether she is a concert pianist or a teacher, she was proud of what she does. For Kothari, it is a “privilege to be a part of these kids’ lives.”