Yukiko Kamei Kurakata was a protege of Jascha Heifetz, and a frequent chamber music partner of Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky on both violin and viola. Ms. Kamei also served as assiatant to Heifetz at his legendary Masterclass at the University of Southern California from 1975 to 1980.
Her acclaimed Tokyo recital debut was followed by recitals in New York, Los Angeles, Amsterdam and Sao Paulo, and she appeared as soloist with major Japanese orchestras, including the Japan Philharmonic, Yomiuri Nippon, Tokyo Metropolitan and the Tokyo Symphony. She has also participated in numerous chamber music festivals that include the Marlboro, Amsterdam's Het Reizend Muziekgezelschap, and Okinawa Moon Beach.
Yukiko Kamei was a founding member of the Sitka Summer Music Festival in 1972, and was founder of Chamber Music/LA Festival and its Artistic Director from 1986 to 1995. In Los Angeles, she was also a sought after teacher and, besides USC, taught at UC Santa Barbara, UCLA and Pepperdine University.
In 1993, she and her husband Shunsuke Kurakata moved to San Francisco and she joined the San Francisco Symphony. Maestro Kent Nagano invited her to be soloist in the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn Violin Concertos with the Berkeley Symphony, and in "Le boeuf sur le toit" by Milhaud, with Orchestre de L'Opera de Lyon at the Ojai Festival. As Nagano's concertmaster she also performed the Strauss "Ein Heldenleben" with the Berkeley Symphony. In the ensuing years she mainly devoted her time to orchestral playing and raising her four children, and only in the last few seasons resumed performing solo and chamber music in Tokyo and in the Bay Area. Yukiko Kamei is heard regularly in the San Francisco Symphony's Chamber Music Series at Davies Hall, which included her performance of Dvorak’s Piano Quintet with Yuja Wang in 2011.
Ms. Kamei has recorded the sonatas of Franck, Walton, Bloch (Nos. 1 & 2), Piano Quintet by Taneyev, Piano Quartet by Hindemith, and the String Octet by Enescu. Paul Chihara's "Duo Concertante for Violin and Viola" was written for, and premiered by Kamei and her late husband Milton Thomas. Ms. Kamei has also premiered and recorded many compositions by Henri Lazarof, including the Violin Concerto (Seattle Symphony, conducted by Gerard Schwarz), "Lyric Suite" for solo violin, "Duo Solitaire" for violin and cello, String Quartet, Serenade for String Sextet and Octet for Strings "La Laurenziana".
Yukiko Kamei was born in Tokyo and started the violin at age seven. Her teacher, Takiko Ohmura, was the first Japanese violinist to attend the Juilliard School as a student of Hans Letz. Yukiko went on to study at the Solfege School and Komaba High School before attending Scripps College in Claremont, California. A few weeks after her arrival in US she played for Heifetz and became his student.
Ms. Kamei is shown in the 2011 documentary film on Heifetz, "God's Fiddler".