San Francisco based multi-instrumentalist Masaru Koga developed his worldview at an early age. Soon after his birth in Chiba Japan, his family relocated to the US due to his father’s work, and spent this adolescent years moving around multiple times. By the time he graduated high school, he had lived in three different countries and nine different cities.
Masaru took interest in music as a young child; especially in jazz music. At 11 years old he started learning the trumpet and joined the school band. Before long, he was listening to old recordings by Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and others. But a few years later, after another move to Munich Germany, he had a chance to borrow an alto saxophone from his sister’s friend. This, ultimately changed his life. With a magazine cutout of a fingering chart and CDs and cassettes of his favorite music, he began teaching himself. He was 15 years old.
With an international background, it was fitting that he would find himself at San Jose State University to pursue music in the Improvised Music Studies, where he intensively studied and explored musical tradition from around the world. With the guidance from his mentors including Dwight Cannon, Dr. Hafez Modirzadeh, Dr. royal hartigan, Dan Sabanovich, Baomi Butts, and Joe Hodge. Masaru earned his BA in IMS in 1995.
Fueled with a passion for cross-cultural experience, Masaru started to incorporate the Japanese shakuhachi into his music, and began his apprenticeship with master shakuhachi artist Masayuki Koga. In addition to woodwinds, Masaru fell in love with the sound of Brazilian Samba drumming and spent several years studying and playing within the rich Brazilian Samba community in the bay area. From 2006 to 2011 he served as the director for SambAsia San Francisco, an award winning Samba group originally founded by Jimmy Biala.
Masaru has had the privilage of working with artists such as Akira Tana, Anthony Brown, Mark Izu, Fred Ho, Wayne Wallace, Gail Dobson, Kenny Endo, and Kat Parra, as well as his mentors Hafez Modirzadeh and royal hartigan. In addition to performing, Masaru is an experienced educator. Aside from his regular private instruction, he has taught at California Jazz Conservatory, and also conducted workshops domestically and internationally.
In 2010, he received “The Latin Jazz Corner Best of 2010 Awards” in the “Latin Jazz Flautist of the Year” category for his performance on Kat Parra’s album “Dos Amantes”. In 2013 he worked as a musical director for a three-week off-Broadway run of Fred Ho’s critically acclaimed theater work “Deadly She-Wolf Assassin At Armageddon!” in New York City, in which he conducted and performed as the leader of the Afro-Asian Music Ensemble.
His recent work includes annual concert tour to Japan with the Otonowa Project led by drummer Akira Tana, in which they give concerts and music workshops for the communities recovering from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Masaru’s sound encompasses the many cultural traditions he’s been touched by, and the worldview developed though diverse life experiences. He aims to create music that respects traditions and goes beyond styles and idioms, and ultimately help diminish all other forms of social boundaries.