Though three of the four performers in Friday’s benefit concert for the Peace Garden in Simpson Garden
Park in Bowling Green have ties to the city – pianist Kimi Kawashima and tenor Shawn Mathey grew up just
a block from each other – they will arrive from far reaching places.
Mathey has just completed a production of "The Magic Flute" in Zurich, Switzerland. Kawashima
and her husband and fellow pianist Jason Hardink arrive from parts West – he’s in Salt Lake City where
he serves as the pianist for the Utah Symphony and she from Houston where she’s working on a doctorate
in piano performance at Rice University.
Mathey’s wife, soprano Sujin Lee, now spends most of her time in BG as the busy mother of 4-year-old
Hannah and 15-month-old Sarah.
The Friday performance is at 7:30 p.m. in Kobacker Hall in the Moore Musical Arts Center at Bowling Green
State University. Tickets are $25 and are available at Grounds for Thought, Calico, Sage and Thyme and
the Community Center, all in Bowling Green.
For both couples music is a family affair, and that has its benefits and drawbacks.
The time apart ranks high in the challenges of two-performer families.
Mathey and Lee especially experience that as he pursues an operatic career in Europe.
Young singers, Mathey said, often are impressed by "the levels of compensation" for singers.
What they don’t realize is that pay is not just for the goose-bump producing performances on stage, but
for the demands of maintaining an international career, especially for someone with a family.
At first, Mathey said, a singer may "try to do the right thing by traveling with your family."
That’s what he did. But after a couple trips, he said he realized why most singers travel alone.
"It doesn’t work. It really doesn’t work."
Singing, he said, is "necessarily a self-absorbed kind of existence."
Having a singer for a wife does make it easier. Lee knows the care that must be taken of the voice. That
means she will bear the brunt of taking care of the children the day of a performance "because
Daddy can’t talk," Mathey said.
That may seem excessive until he doesn’t rest his voice and gets on stage to sing and disaster ensues.
and Hardink also share the knowledge of the demands of the same instrument. "We understand each
other’s search for our musical life," she said.
They perform regularly as a duo either together on one piano or on two separate pianos. After playing
together so much – they started performing as a duo in 2004 about the time they were married – there’s a
closeness, "an understanding of how to breathe" as one with the music, Hardink said.
And that’s especially important when doing piano four-hands where "it’s very revealing if it’s not
in synch," Kawashima said.
They will play music by Claude Debussy, Sergei Rachmoninoff and Franz Schubert. Kawashima, at the request
of her mother J.J. Kawashima, will also play a solo piece by Franz Liszt.
Mathey and Lee have often performed together. They met while performing "Madama Butterfly" at
the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.
Lee performed internationally before focusing on her role as a mother. But whenever she has a chance to
perform again as in Friday’s concert she remembers how much joy singing gives her.
Performing with Mathey takes some of the pressure off, she said.
In addition to duets, both will sing solo. The repertoire will include both operatic and musical theater
selections and Lee will sing folk tunes from her native Korea.
Though Kawashima and Mathey grew up in the same neighborhood, he was older, having graduated from Bowling
Green High School in 1987. She graduated in 1994. They performed together for the first time several
years ago at a benefit at the Wood County Public Library to raise money to buy the piano that is now in
the library’s atrium.
The half-acre Peace Garden, designed to emulate Japanese gardens, is especially close to the performers’
hearts. The garden will honor Kawashima’s late father Fujiya Kawashima, a BGSU Asian studies professor
and accomplished artist.
"My father’s life was about bridging cultural divides," Kawashima said. That included
advocating for a Peace Studies program at BGSU and marrying a Korean woman.
"It’s great that we can celebrate that in music," Kawashima said.
Mathey said he drove to Simpson to try to envision what the Peace Garden will look like when finished,
but is not experienced enough to envision it, he said. Still he looks forward to future years when he
and his family, and other families, can enjoy the garden.