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Community to remember music professor in song

Bonne Marie Bautista

Mills College and the Deep Listening Institute are sponsoring a concert in honor of Toyoji Tomita Sept. 10 in Lisser Theatre. Tomita taught trombone at Mills and graduated Mills with a Masters in electronic music in 1986.

“When you get such good musicians dedicated to doing something beautiful for someone they love, it should be very nice,” Mills College concert coordinator Steed Cowart said.

The concert will begin with a tree planting at 7:30 p.m. outside of the music building. The Mills College didjeridu ensemble, which Tomita founded, will perform and a Japanese maple will be planted for him.

“It sort of represents the fine details,” Mills graduate student Andy Strain said. “It’s a smaller tree, but it’s jam-packed with detail. He definitely had a lot of great details about him, a lot of style.”

Tomita also owned T.P.T. Gardener, Inc., a sustainable company that planted trees for the city of Oakland. He collected data from the trees he planted, which were wirelessly connected to the Internet. The data was used to shape sound.

At 8 p.m. the concert will move to Lisser Theatre where the Deep Listening Institute will present Tomita’s wife, Marianne Tomita McDonald, with the Golden Ear award in Tomita’s honor. It is the second Golden Ear the Institute has ever given.

“He listened as a performer, as an improviser,” said Pauline Oliveros, president of the Deep Listening Institute and a Mills visiting professor. “I think he was listening to the trees too.”

The Institute will also honor Jack Nakamura in memory with a deep listening certificate.

Many Mills musicians will participate in the concert. There will be new and traditional music, including electronic and instrumental pieces. His wife, a harpist, will also perform.

“Toyoji was never a fan of sad music, especially at funerals. He was much more a fan of celebratory sounds and that is what he’ll get,” Strain said.

All of the pieces will be improvisational.

“Toyoji was experimental,” Oliveros said. “He was adventurous and had a great deal of exploration in his music.”

Tomita died suddenly of a heart attack in his home April 17. He was active in the local music community, managing the email list and hosting dinner parties. After his memorial service in April several small concerts were held for him.

“I think it will be important to the community to know that Mills recognizes him,” Oliveros said.

The concert is free to the Mills community. There is a suggested donation of $20. The money goes to the Deep Listening Institute Tomita Fund to help the family with expenses that were left.