This is Joni Fukuda Prado who is currently working as an Associate Professor of Music at Vanguard University.
We had the opportunity to catch up with her this week and hear more about her story. When we walked into her office, we immediately saw her baby grand black piano topped with different songs and music theory sheets. Joni sat at her desk comfortably and sat upright describing her beginnings as well as her family upbringing. She smiled saying, "I was born in Pasadena, CA, and grew up in West Covina for ten years before my family moved to the city of Orange." West Covina borders the City of Industry and is located 19 miles from Downtown, Los Angeles.
Harlan, Joni's Dad, and Helene, Joni's Mom, were born and raised on the big island of Hawaii both who have Japanese ancestral roots. They eventually settled in California in their early twenties and were set up on a date by a mutual friend. They later would go back to Hawaii to get married. Years later, they had Joni and her fourteen-year younger brother Michael.
Both her parents, have musical interests and play the piano, guitar, alto sax and ukelele. Joni followed in their footsteps with their love for music and started taking piano lessons at an early age and continued to take lessons until her junior year of high school. Joni attended Villa Park High school, where she was actively involved in sports and music. She played as a libero on the women's volleyball team, which is a back-row player and a point guard on her basketball team. Although she is a soprano now, an Italian term for the second-highest lead in a choir, Joni sang as an alto- two in high school, which is the lowest singing point for a ladies choir. She reflects on her formative years saying, " I used to love singing the low parts in music and it was not until college that I began developing my voice," she continues, " it was actually Dr. Reid, who is currently the chair of the music department, that helped me develop more of my voice."
In 1993, Joni attended the then called California Baptist College, now better known as Cal. Baptist University, that had around 800 students at the time. She was invited to the University on a music scholarship where she was asked to sing and perform in the choir, " I never really considered music to be a career or a way to make a living in my life," Joni comments, " It was more of a hobby and even in college it was not something I really considered until my last two years (at CBU)." Joni graduated in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and music.
After graduating from college, Joni was offered a job as an adjunct professor teaching music classes at her alumna matter, CBU and taught one music class, Intermediate Voice Class, at Irvine Valley College. She also continued her education by pursuing a Master's degree in vocal performance at the California State University of Fullerton where she had the opportunity to sing with her choir for some of the bishops at the Vatican, enclaved within Rome Italy. During this time, Joni's Irvine Valley College colleagues and friends invited her to their off-campus dance class in Anaheim then called the JC Fandango, now closed, that specialized in Salsa, a South American dance. Joni did not have any experience in dancing but went to her first dance class where she eventually met her boyfriend now husband, Javier, who born and raised in Michoacan, Mexico. After being introduced to the dance class, Javier who was enrolled in the intermediate-advanced class asked Joni to dance and they became exclusive dance partners which eventually led to their engagement. In October 2007, they were officially married and had their wedding ceremony in January 2008 at the Embassy Suites in Santa Ana. Shortly afterward, they moved to Santa Ana and installed wood floors and dance mirrors on the walls so they could continue to dance in their home.
After getting married, Joni was hired by Vanguard as an adjunct professor and also moved forward to working towards teaching music full-time in college. Joni applied to a doctorate program at U.S.C and graduated with a DMA otherwise known as a Doctor of Musical Arts. She described her transition into her last years of schooling, "I applied the day before the deadline of the application and I was so worried about not getting accepted," Joni continues, "At the time, U.S.C had some of the best vocal instructors and it was a reputable school but I was able to get in and complete my audition in front of six faculty." When applying for graduate school in music, choir specifically, singers also have to audition to get into the school of music.
In 2009, Joni graduated from U.S.C and would start teaching music classes full-time at Vanguard University. She is currently getting ready for Vanguard's Christmas Fantasia Concert on December 9. Joni smiles, "Fantasia takes place at Segerstrom Center of the Arts in Costa Mesa and it's something that you want to watch," she continues, "All music students are apart of it and we start prepping for it as soon as the Fall semester starts and we are almost done with the final touches." Joni encourages all Vanguard community to get tickets and see the performance. She believes it's a great event for the holiday season.
When Joni is not singing or teaching music, she enjoys spending time with her husband where they currently reside in Orange. Fun fact; Scarlet Wu, a staff member at VU, is married to Joni's brother and is her sister-in-law.
Vanguard University is so thankful for Joni and the joy she brings to the music department.
- university news