Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, January 14, 1999

Special to the Star-Bulletin

Sony chief
leads historic

By Tim Ryan


He's chairman and chief executive officer of Sony Corporation worldwide, Sony Corporation of America, Sony Music Entertainment Inc. and Sony Pictures Entertainment, controlling revenues last year of more than $55 billion and 173,000 employees.

And in his not-so-spare time, Norio Ohga conducts orchestras throughout the world -- including, for the third straight year, the Honolulu Symphony. Oh, he also is a licensed pilot who often flies the Sony corporate jet, as he did from Tokyo to Honolulu for this visit.

Ohga referred questions to Tai Ohnishi, executive director of the Sony Music Foundation, which Ohga founded 13 years ago. The foundation promotes international artists in Japan.

"Mr. Ohga's intention is to promote fine music to the Japanese, to make it easily available," Ohnishi said.

Ohga first conducted the Honolulu Symphony in 1996, when he was here to celebrate Sony's 50th anniversary. He returned last year for Sony Hawaii's 30th birthday.

Ohga, Ohnishi said, does not take conducting lightly, practicing daily after his Sony duties are completed. "He spends most of his free time studying music, practicing, and rehearsing."

Before joining Sony in 1959, Ohga studied music in Tokyo, Munich and Berlin, then pursued a singing career. While the music world may have lost a talented baritone when Ohga became manager of Sony's Tape Recorder Division, it gained a fervent supporter who has made recorded works more accessible and lifelike, Ohnishi said.

Ohga has guided the launch of several groundbreaking digital formats and established Sony as a global entertainment company. He was instrumental in the establishment of the CD format, co-developed with Philips and introduced in 1982; and then the development of the next generation in personal audio, the MiniDisc. He also was instrumental in the company's acquisition of CBS Records Inc. -- now Sony Music Entertainment Inc. -- in 1988 and Columbia Pictures Entertainment Inc. in 1989 -- now Sony Pictures Entertainment.

At age 60, Ohga returned to his first love: conducting. He has received critical acclaim for leading orchestras, including the Boston Symphony, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony and Vienna OPF Symphony.

His conducting of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Honolulu marks an unprecedented collaboration: Two historically antagonistic nations -- Japan and Korea -- will be represented in a musical celebration with the Honolulu Symphony. The Korean National Chorus and the Sony Philharmonic Choir from Japan will perform together.

"There is not a more appropriate place for Japan and Korea to come together in this historic collaboration than on Hawaiian soil, the melting pot of the central Pacific," said Akira Ohtomo, chairman of the symphony's International Development Committee.

Halekulani Classical

Bullet Featuring: Beethoven's Ninth, with the National Chorus of Korea (above), Sony Philharmonic Choir, Oahu Choral Society and guest conductor Norio Ohga. Also, cellist Han Na Chang performs Haydn's Violoncello Concerto.
Bullet Concert time: 7:3O p.m. Sunday and Monday
Bullet Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Bullet Tickets: $15-$50; 100 seats at $7.50 available on concert days
Bullet Call: 538-8863

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