Koji K. Otsuki
Bach specialist, conductor, cellist da spalla
Born in Michigan, and raised in Ibaraki, Japan, Koji began playing the violin at the age of six, and the trumpet at ten. Later he embraced his heritage and studied the Japanese traditional court music Gagaku, playing the bamboo flute Ryuteki, but his strong interest towards the Western classical music eventually led him back to the U.S. to pursue degrees in music. He holds a master’s degree in choral conducting from Temple University in Philadelphia where he taught conducting and directed the women’s chorus from 2001 to 2002.
In 1998 he organized his first Bach ensemble in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and gave two Bach cantata concerts, and since then he has been actively organizing ensembles and performing in concerts. His mentors include Helmuth Rilling with whom he studied at Oregon Bach Festival over three festival seasons (Eugene, Oregon) and at Bachwoche 2004 (Stuttgart, Germany) with a scholarship from the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart. From 2003 to 2005, he was a Japanese government research scholar at the Tokyo University of the Arts (Tokyo Geidai) under Masaaki Suzuki, the director of the Bach Collegium Japan. While at Geidai he also studied the baroque violin, the flauto traverso, the baroque voice and early music ensemble.
A believer of informed and insightful music-making, Koji, after his return from Japan, continued his baroque violin/ensemble direction study with Stanley Ritchie in a doctoral program at Indiana University and had played occasionally in some professional period instrument ensembles in the Midwest. In Spring 2011 he moved back to Philadelphia to work for the Marlboro Music Festival organization with which he has been enjoying the relationship since 1998. He also relished his second stint at Temple University, teaching conducting, from 2011 to 2015.
In recent years, Koji not only had the privilege of directing his Tokyo-based period instrument group Gamut Bach Ensemble but also developed and has been directing the US version of the Gamut Bach Ensemble for the prestigious concert series of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. He has also been involved in a few major multifaceted projects such as Bach/Mendelssohn St. Matthew Passion (Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, 2015: artistic adviser, rehearsal coordinator, associate producer [project documentary], symposium moderator) and Viola Space 2016 (artistic advisor, conductor, performer, master class, program notes). Since 2015, he has been collaborating with violist Nobuko Imai at her winter viola camp in Otaru in Januaries, teaching Bach to the young violists. His other recent international appearances as a lecturer/master class teacher include National Taiwan Normal University (2017), Shanghai Conservatory of Music (2016) and Viola Space Taiwan in Kaohsiung (2016).
When the occasions arise, he performs on the violoncello da spalla in concerts.