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First experience writing music

I think the first experiences that I had with music as far as playing it would have to be when I was really young, when I was about 3 or 4. My mom enrolled me in a piano class. It was like a Yamaha piano workshop type of thing for young kids and we’d just go in with a class of 10 or 15 other kids of all ages who were just learning piano for the first time. And they’d teach you how to put your hands on the keys correctly, sit correctly, and all those things. And it kind of stuck. I think what happened was that the shop closed down and our teacher from the class said, you know, “I’m going to keep doing this on my own. I’m going to teach piano privately.” And we began…my brother and I began lessons with her.

From the point, I want to say I was about 12-ish when I won one of my first composition contests. I wrote…it was actually the first piece I ever wrote and I submitted it through her to this little contest they were putting on and I was really proud because I won, you know, first place and I’m this little kid and there were people who were, you know, 5 years older than me writing music for this thing who had written a number of pieces. So that was really big moment for me where I thought, you know, “I guess I can write songs. This is pretty fun.”


compostion (music) music

Date: January 16, 2006

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Chris Komai and John Esaki

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Michael Kenji Shinoda was born and raised in Agoura Hills, a suburb north of Los Angeles, to a Japanese American father and Caucasian mother. He first began studying music with piano lessons at age three. During high school and continuing while a student at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Shinoda and friends formed a band called Xero. Due to copyright issues, they later renamed themselves Hybrid Theory and ultimately, Linkin Park. Since the 2000 release of their first album, Linkin Park has enjoyed great success. In 2002, they won a Grammy for “Best Hard Rock Performance” for their song “Crawling.” The band won another Grammy in 2006 for their mash-up collaboration with Jay-Z entitled “Numb/Encore.”

In 2005, Shinoda released his first solo effort, The Rising Tied, a hip-hop album that he wrote and produced under the name Fort Minor. One of the songs on the debut album titled “Kenji” was inspired by a visit to the Japanese American National Museum. He interviewed family members who were incarcerated in American concentration camps during World War II. Parts of the interviews with his father and aunt are incorporated into the song.

Although he pursued music as his career, Shinoda continues to express his creativity visually. He oversees the design and artwork for all of Linkin Park’s printed and web materials. He has also created artwork for Linkin Park and Fort Minor’s album covers.

Despite his many projects, Shinoda has taken time to support many charities. In addition to starting a scholarship at Art Center College of Design, he has been involved with organizations like United Way, Denshō, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Japanese American National Museum. He participated in Los Angeles’ Nisei Week Parade as the 2005 Honorary Parade Marshal. For his creative contributions to American culture, he was awarded the Japanese American National Museum’s Award of Excellence in 2006. (October 19, 2006)

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