Legendary musician and teacher Ellen Masaki dies

Ellen Masaki
Ellen Masaki
Rosy Wang
Rosy Wang
Ethel Iwasaki
Ethel Iwasaki

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii has lost a very special life. Legendary musician and piano teacher Ellen Masaki passed away from cancer Monday, at the age of 81.

Throughout her life, Ellen Masaki earned prestigious accolades, with some of her students achieving musical stardom around the world. But, beginner to experienced, it didn't matter who she taught. She just wanted her students to love piano.

Jonah Saclausa's music plays a special melody. Every note, every key is the aura of Ellen Masaki.

"You have to understand the music, she always said that," said friend Rosy Wang.

To students she was more than a music teacher.

"Very warm, very lively, loving like a mother," said Wang.

"She never scolded them, she inspired them," said friend Ethel Iwasaki.

And she was dedicated to them. Almost 3,000 throughout a span of nearly 60 years. She even made a trip to the Big Island to see her students perform. She was barely able to breath on her own. Days later, she was initially admitted to hospital, with cancer eventually conquering her life.

But sitting side by side with students is where she loved to be, earning her immense awards. The Honolulu Symphony also honored Masaki for her contributions to music in 2003. But those are memories and now all that's left is music.

"Her legacy will live on through her students," said Iwasaki.

Not every student will know Ellen Masaki. But, with every piano stroke she's there. Ellen always said she would play until she died. But don't doubt that this piano paragon isn't still sharing her talent among angels.

Family members say funeral arrangements aren't made yet, but are planning a memorial concert in her honor. All of Masaki's former students will be invited to perform.