Dr. Paul Mori ’77 shares his passion for music in many ways. He inspires his students at Highline Community College in Seattle, Wash., to think about music in new ways; he directs and guides the passions of the Rainier Symphony; and he invites South Seattle residents to share his passion for music at symphony performances.
Since he started conducting the Rainier Symphony in 1996, the size of the orchestra has almost doubled, and it’s drawing larger crowds than ever before. He really enjoys working with amateur musicians from many walks of life: they include Boeing employees, music teachers, and retired workers. “They all have one thing in common,” Paul explains. “They have the passion for great music and music making.”
“It’s not an easy job,” he adds. “But there are some wonderful rewards.” As conductor of a community orchestra, he not only conducts rehearsals and performances, he also schedules performances, holds auditions, handles marketing and advertising, raises public and financial support, and writes grant proposals.
Paul says the liberal arts education he received at Westmont gave him a large advantage over many of his fellow students at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, where he received his master’s degree in bassoon performance and a D.M.A. in orchestral conducting.
“Conducting is more than just waving your arms,” Paul reflects. “It incorporates a holistic way of looking at the world. Music relates to history, to people, to the world in which it was created, and to the world today. Developing a world view is something I began to do at Westmont.”
Paul also teaches at Highline Community College, where he encourages his students to actively listen to music. “I hope they will walk out of class and say ‘I hear music in a whole different light,’” he says.
“My job as a teacher and a conductor is to inspire, and being a community director gives me that important opportunity.”
He knows all it takes to get “hooked” on music is an inspiring leader. The Santa Barbara Symphony conductor of his youth, Ronald Onjreka, and Phyllis Zimmerman, the former renowned choir director at Santa Barbara High School, are two inspiring leaders who compelled him to pursue music.
“The seeds of learning how to become a strong leader were planted at Westmont. Most important, I learned to be a servant,” he notes. “My musicians know I am there to make them look good and sound good.”
Paul is deeply involved in his ethnic community as well. He is an active member of two Japanese churches in the Seattle area and also devotes time to two volunteer organizations: From Hiroshima to Hope, a peace organization; and the Walk for Rice, a fund-raiser for an organization that gives rice to Asian immigrants.