Spend time with Susan Miyamoto and one word that comes to mind is “calm.”
She’s gentle, always polite and has the easiest of smiles. If she were an instrument, perhaps she’d be a soothing harp.
Not that she plays one. Piano is the main tool in her life of music. If Temecula had a mother of music, she’d be it.
She’s been teaching piano since she arrived here in 1989, back when the Temecula city government was just beginning. She’s since started the Temecula Valley Conservatory of Arts that advocates for quality music instruction in local schools, provided background music at Temecula City Council meetings for 15 years, entered her students in countless music competitions, launched a music program in Temecula elementary schools, serves as president of the board of the Temecula Valley Symphony, and on and on go her musical activities.
“When we first moved to Temecula in 1989, there was no arts community to speak of and it’s been fulfilling for me to be a part of the growth of the music community over the past 30 years,” she said.
Miyamoto is 66. Her oldest son, Kevin, is a local piano tuner and her other son, Josh, plays in local bands and teaches guitar in Temecula. He has a master’s degree in studio jazz guitar from USC. Both were taught by the best — their mom.
“I believe the arts are so important in the lives of human beings,” Miyamoto said. “It’s been a passion of mine to get involved and hopefully make a difference.”
Saying she’s “hopefully” made a difference in the local arts scene is like saying Einstein “hopefully” helped us better understand physics.
As always, she’s understated.
Not that she doesn’t get riled up. At one time, she lived in Rainbow, the nearest resident to the infamous Temecula-area quarry project. For seven years, locals by the thousands protested the project: the longest, costliest and most tumultuous development in southwest Riverside County history.
Miyamoto was critical to the opposition’s case because she could speak to the effects most directly. She said the area’s quality of life would have been “destroyed,” and, for once, she wasn’t understated.
Looking back on a project that was finally killed in 2012, she credits the Pechanga tribe that rode to the rescue and purchased the site.
Always one to see the positives in even the most difficult of times, she said so much good came from the project, such as locals learning more about the Pechanga tribe’s creation story and “the community of citizens and city government bonding together and building lasting friendships.”
Miyamoto said the area’s music scene has expanded greatly since she moved here. Now there’s lots of live music at the wineries, jazz at The Merc, classical concerts at the Temecula Theater and a different style of tunes at the Blues Club. Depending on your tastes, they can probably be satisfied somewhere in Temecula. Quite a change from 1989.
Marti Treckman, long active in the local music scene, has known Miyamoto for about 15 years and said she’s “made a huge difference” in the area’s performing arts scene in that time.
Treckman said many know Miyamoto for her music, but not as many are aware of her sweet disposition. She’s as likely to make enemies as ice cream is to be refused by kids.
“Susan is also a wonderful person and friend, so loving and kind,” Treckman said.
It’s her kindness that helps Miyamoto teach every age, from seniors to babies.
While she often befriends her adult students, Miyamoto really enjoys her youngest learners.
“Well,” she said when asked why, “it’s fun to see them get into the music. They start moving, bouncing, smiling or dancing when they hear something they like.”
Spreading joy wherever she goes.
Reach Carl Love at firstname.lastname@example.org
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