Wichita State graduate lands job with Cirque du Soleil
Center stage with eyes closed, lost in the music, Miki Masuda is in her happy place.
Every Saturday night at the Broadview Hotel in downtown Wichita, she stands under dim light with a large electric bass guitar hanging from her petite frame, immersed in jazz music.
Masuda, who came to Wichita from Japan, has been studying music and the electric bass guitar at Wichita State University since 2004.
This summer she will graduate with her master’s degree in music performance and has already landed her first big job with one of the most recognized, extravagant productions in the world: Cirque du Soleil, French for “circus of the sun.”
Masuda, 30, has played the electric bass guitar since 1994 when she attended high school in Wamego, Kan., as an exchange student from Tokyo, Japan.
She didn’t come to the United States to study music, but by the time she went back to Japan she had developed a deep connection with it.
It was by chance that she came to play the instrument. One day while in music class at Wamego High School, Masuda noticed a spare guitar on the ground.
“There was an electric bass lying on the floor and no one was playing it,” she said. “So my instructor suggested that I try it.”
After she tried once, Masuda picked up the bass frequently and began enjoying it more each time. When she returned to Japan after her year-long stint in the States, she didn’t forget about her new-found interest.
Back home, she finished high school and her undergraduate degree in English. Masuda returned to Kansas in 2001 to resume her study of music at Hutchinson Community College.
That’s when she was introduced to Tom Fowler, WSU professor and associate chair of the WSU School of Music.
The two met when Masuda was the interpreter at a Japanese-Kansas business conference held in Hutchinson and the WSU jazz band was the evening’s entertainment.
Fowler said Masuda was impressed by the band’s performance and wanted to know how she could play with them. With encouragement from Fowler, she transferred to Wichita State in 2004 and earned her undergraduate degree in music performance two years later.
Although she didn’t consider graduate school at the time, she gave it a second thought at Fowler’s recommendation.
“Miki is an extremely talented bass player and I thought she’d do well in graduate school,” Fowler said. “She is somebody who will do anything you ask of her. She’s never unwilling to try something new.”
Masuda enrolled in graduate school at WSU and also worked as a graduate teaching assistant, which allowed her to study and teach undergraduate courses while receiving financial aid.
When she picks up her diploma this August, she can breathe a long-awaited sigh of relief, but not for long. She will be embarking on her new adventure with Cirque du Soleil, far from the Wichita jazz scene.
Cirque du Soleil’s performances are accompanied by continuous live music and incorporate various circus styles based around themes and storylines.
Masuda will play electric bass guitar during the productions as she travels around the world with the Montreal, Canada, based company.
She is looking forward to trying a new realm of entertainment, playing, improving and meeting new people; it’s what she enjoys most.
“I love music. It’s something I can express myself with,” Masuda said. “I’m just generally happy when I’m playing.”