Published: May 2, 2024 By

Joy Yamaguchi When Joy Yamaguchi graduates from the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Music next week with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree (violin performance + Music Theory Certificate), the work she started here will continue well beyond her official stint as a student.

“I’m looking forward to further developing the projects I started through my research here at CU Boulder,” says Yamaguchi. “Completing this degree has helped me realize my strength and solidify my focus as a multifaceted artist.”

Yamaguchi came to CU Boulder as a doctoral student with credentials as an accomplished teacher, performer and entrepreneur. She started playing violin at age 8 (she describes her musical roots as being a “Suzuki violin kid”), and went on to earn a bachelor’s in music from the University of Minnesota and a master’s from Florida State University.

Our College of Music offered Yamaguchi opportunities to expand her already refined approach as a musician, educator and artist. Thanks in part to the mentorship of top-notch faculty and the availability of top-tier academic resources, Yamaguchi has deepened her connection to music—and to the history of the art form.

Her time at CU Boulder saw Yamaguchi researching and creating a new edition of two violin sonatas by Nobu Kōda, a Japanese composer of the Meiji era whose works were historically excluded from the classical canon, due in part to the fact that she was a woman. 

The DMA program also offered Yamaguchi the chance to create a new curriculum for beginning string students. This curriculum, which focuses on teaching music theory through composition and improvisation, wasn’t just theoretical: Yamaguchi had the chance to put the system into practice with students at El Sistema Colorado.

In addition, Yamaguchi—who’s also the inaugural recipient of the András Szentkirályi Memorial Scholarship—found opportunities to present her research, insights and innovations to an audience beyond our campus. In 2023, she presented during the National American String Teachers Association’s annual conference, specifically detailing research that drew connections between bell hooks’ pedagogical framework and music education.

All of these accomplishments align with the mission that Yamaguchi had in mind when she decided to pursue her doctoral work at CU Boulder. “I was looking for a program that would allow me to gain hands-on teaching experience and explore my interdisciplinary research interests,” she says.

“I was very fortunate to have a graduate teaching assistantship throughout my degree,” she adds, explaining that the assistantship allowed her to interact firsthand with students, and to learn the ins and outs of the academic world. “I taught lessons to undergraduate and graduate students, assisted with music theory courses and grew my understanding of the inner workings of academia.”

All of this valuable experience is set to pay off in very practical ways. This spring, for example, Yamaguchi will head directly from Boulder to Wisconsin where she’ll manage this year’s Blackbird Creative Lab, a prestigious musical immersion event hosted by Grammy Award-winning musicians—surely only the first of many ways that she’ll carry what she learned at our College of Music into the wider world.

“The DMA challenged me in ways that were expected and unexpected,” she concludes. “Throughout, I’ve been very grateful for the community of teachers and colleagues who have supported me. The relationships I’ve formed at CU will continue.”

Congratulations, Joy—and to all our fantastic 2024 graduates!