For Rei Hotoda, music goes beyond the notes on a page and the sounds that echo through an auditorium. To her, music is a reflection of a community and the diversity within it.
Hotoda has been the Music Director of the Fresno Philharmonic since 2017. She began playing the piano at three years old, and music has remained a pillar of her life ever since. She went on to complete her degree at USC and began her journey in the world of conducting.
Music is "part of her DNA," she says.
As a Music Director, Hotoda is drawn to exhibiting contemporary pieces composed by artists of diverse backgrounds whose stories mirror the stories of the people within Fresno County. The Philharmonic has featured pieces by composers from around the world and the local talent right here in our community, including Benjamin Boone and Kenneth Froelich
She is known to invite these composers to join the Philharmonic on the night their piece is being performed, allowing audience members to come face-to-face with the talent behind the composition and "bridge the gap between the stage and the audience," Hotoda says.
"Music is part of my DNA." - Rei Hotoda
Photo courtesy: Fresno Philharmonic
Similar to the way musicians rely on each other during a performance, Hotoda understands that continuing to fuel Fresno County's art scene is a team effort.
"The cultural arts are the backbone of humanity," Hotoda said. "And the arts are thriving [in Fresno County] and we want to let people know."
The Fresno Philharmonic is comprised of 73 musicians. Forty percent of the ensemble is made up locally grown talent from the greater Fresno area and the rest bring their talents allowing audiences to hear world class players right in Downtown Fresno.
Collaboration and exposure remain the driving force for the ensemble.
"We're always looking for ways to collaborate with our community," she said.
That's shown in the programs she's helped establish during her tenure. Successful initiatives including Link Up, a program that provides thousands of children across Central California the opportunity to play with the Philharmonic. This year, Hotoda says they plan to join forces with the Fresno State Marching Band for the program.
The Pops Series pairs the Philharmonic alongside large range of popular artists of various musical genres, like the upcoming feature of Pink Martini on March 11. And back by popular demand is the 2nd annual Farm to Fiddle Dinner Party inside the Barn at the San Joaquin River Parkway on April 20. The event marries live classical music with Fresno's unparalleled food scene and agricultural roots.
Hotoda's goal is to make the Philharmonic an experience for all to enjoy. "You can wear what you want to a Philharmonic show!" she says with a laugh.
As audience members settle into their seats at the William Saroyan Theatre, they'll see Hotoda's warmth and skill as she directs the orchestra, doing what she loves with a group of incredible talent in a community
"The cultural arts are the backbone of humanity." - Rei Hotoda
When Hotoda isn't on the podium in front of the Philharmonic, she enjoys trying new foods around Fresno County, particularly any and all restaurants serving Asian foods.
Her favorite place to get outside in Fresno County is Shinzen Japanese Friendship Garden. "It really incorporates everything — nature and art. It's a special place and very peaceful," she said.
She also enjoys going to all the Fresno County farmers markets and spending time playing music at home alongside her husband and two kids.