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International student finds opportunity despite facing loss

Yuki+Muranaka%2C+left%2C+assists+Shelly+Liao%2C+right%2C+with+her+Japanese+homework.++Muranaka+has+been+one+of+the+most+popular+tutors+this+semester.+Photo+credit%3A+Eric+Caldwell
Yuki Muranaka, left, assists Shelly Liao, right, with her Japanese homework.  Muranaka has been one of the most popular tutors this semester. Photo credit: Eric Caldwell

Yuki Muranaka, left, assists Shelly Liao, right, with her Japanese homework. Muranaka has been one of the most popular tutors this semester. Photo credit: Eric Caldwell

Yuki Muranaka, left, assists Shelly Liao, right, with her Japanese homework. Muranaka has been one of the most popular tutors this semester. Photo credit: Eric Caldwell

Eric Caldwell

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When Yuki Muranaka started at Moorpark College in 2014, he had one goal in mind: to further his music career by being mentored by prestigious LA music producer Doug Sax. Unfortunately, a year into Muranka’s studies his mentor passed away and so did his dreams of working with American music artists.

While this was upsetting for Muranaka at the time, he has kept a strong head on his shoulders and continued to persevere in his pursuit of obtaining a degree.

He has become a mainstay here at the campus working in the dining hall and tutoring Japanese at the tutoring center on the third floor of the library.

“I feel like I’m at a crossroads, the decision between continuing education and work,” said Muranaka. “If I could choose, I’d continue to study; even after Doug passed away, school and engineering was something I wanted to do, helping others while I get my degree was something I wanted to do too, if I could.”

Muranaka is a international student from Japan who has over 10 years of sound engineering experience working with some of the biggest artists in Asia, including Japanese singer Misia, Japanese rock band Superfly, and Korean pop star Boa.

Muranaka, 29, got into music heavily at 17 when he moved from Osaka to Tokyo. In Tokyo, he started collecting Japanese and American LP’s and going to underground music concerts.

What started as a hobby quickly grew into a passion as Muranaka started noticing all the differences in sound quality from his LP’s to the various sound systems at venues.

“I would go to concerts and be very interested in the mixing consoles and sound,” said Muranaka.“I wanted to learn how to make them work and began to study and self-teach myself.”

In his second month living in Tokyo he met Kenji Suzuki, a professional session musician, who he had read articles about in high school. Muranaka spent a year and a half assisting Suzuki getting the opportunity to know other artists and producers in the industry. Then he was offered a job at M’s Disk Mastering in Japan.

At M’s Disk Mastering Studio Muranaka was finally given the chance to work hands on with tracks that would be heard by the mass public. Throughout his tenure at the Mastering Studio, he has worked with artists such as Misia, Boa, Superfly, Daishi Dance, Lisa Lovbrand and more.

While his resume of produced tracks continued to grow, Muranaka had growing aspirations to work on music for the best American artists. Sax, the famous LA music producer who has produced for artists and bands such as Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Green Day, Paul McCartney and many more, had always been someone Muranaka respected and admired.

In 2011, Muranaka decided he wanted to go to America in hopes of being mentored by Sax.

He met with Sax and through a translated message expressed his desire to be mentored.

While Sax told him he could not be hired without a degree, Muranaka could however, attend a community college to obtain the needed degree and during his time in community college he could stop by the studio and get pointers.

The next two years Muranaka would study and practice his English diligently to improve it enough to be accepted by Moorpark College.

“I would learn 50 new words everyday from a dictionary I had and try to use the words,” said Muranaka. “Studying hard was important but so was applying all the words I was learning to my daily life.”

In 2014, Muranaka felt confident his English had improved enough to apply to Moorpark College and he was accepted. Muranaka began taking classes to obtain his engineering degree he needed to work for Sax.

On April 2nd, 2015, however, Sax passed away from his battle with cancer, this was heart-breaking to Muranaka but did not kill his motivation to continue school.

“My passion for music has not been the same since Doug passed, but I love being here in America, regardless of Doug,” said Muranaka.

Recently, Muranaka has been tutoring Japanese at the writing center located on the third floor of the library on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

Naoko Hall, Japanese Professor at Moorpark informed Deborah Brackley, Tutorial Services Specialist, for the writing center that there was a student who wanted to help tutor Japanese.

“Professor Hall approached me in the fall about a student who wanted to tutor Japanese,” said Brackley. “I said no, not for one class, but Hall was persistent and there was a willing student to volunteer so I decided to give it a chance this semester and see how it goes.”

So far this semester, Muranaka has had the highest turnout rate and attendance for tutoring, according to Brackley.

“It’s worked out great and Yuki shows devotion to his students,” said Brackley “We have even extended his hours from two to three because of his students turnout every week.”

Muranaka is not only helping these students learn a new language but also making friends along the way.

Christopher Brauer, pre-med student here at Moorpark, was hesitant about taking Japanese but Muranaka helped make his experience a good one.

“I never wanted to take Japanese, but my grandma is Japanese and she wanted me to get into the heritage more,” said Brauer “I started to attend the tutoring and Yuki has been incredible, he is very personable and likable; also his age being close to the students adds relatability. He is a very good teacher.”

Dylan Kish, linguistics major, has enjoyed the opportunity to converse and learn from a native born speaker, a much different experience than learning from the textbook.

“It’s really good to be able to talk to a natural speaker,” said Kish. “It can be hard to speak to people who are not natural speakers, so it is nice to be able to learn and speak with Yuki.”

Muranaka knows the challenges of learning a second language and for Japanese students this involves learning a completely new style of writing.

“I’m happy to help teach students who really want to learn Japanese, in America, many students learn Spanish and French in high school,” said Muranaka.

“Those languages all have similar alphabets, but Japanese is a different writing style, so I feel a connection to the students learning something that is completely new to them.”

Muranaka is graduating this semester and although Brackley is very happy for him, he will be missed and hard to replace.

“He’s done an amazing job, Yuki has been very popular and I’m a little worried what will happen when he leaves,” said Brackley.

Muranaka does not know what is in store next but he wants to continue to carve out a life here and continue his engineering studies.

“I want to stay here and go to school here in America after I finish Moorpark. My top schools are Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon and Cal Poly,” said Muranaka.

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International student finds opportunity despite facing loss