Kento Iwasaki, a graduate of High School South, performs on the koto, a Japanese Harp, in Washington Square Park in New York City. Iwasaki will lecture at Mercer County Community College on Wednesday, April 12.

Kento Iwasaki, a graduate of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South and Mercer County Community College, is set to demonstrate how an ancient musical instrument is still relevant in the era of jazz, hip-hop and rock in an upcoming lecture at MCCC.

Iwasaki, an accomplished composer and musician, will deliver his lecture “The Koto: A Traditional Japanese Instrument in Present Day” as part of MCCC’s Distinguished Lecture Series at noon on Wednesday, April 12, in room 109 of the Communications Building on the West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Rd. The lecture, which is part music performance and part lecture, is free and open to the public.

Iwasaki will discuss the historical and modern aspects of the koto, a traditional Japanese musical instrument. He will discuss the history of Western impact on Japanese music, particularly when Japan ended its period of isolationism.

He will also present insight on his own experiences learning traditional music as a composer growing up in America, and will perform excerpts of traditional compositions, as well as modern improvisations and compositions rooted in his collaborations with opera, jazz, hip hop, and rock.

Iwasaki recently performed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and in September, brought his traveling opera company to Kelsey Theatre to present “Beloved Prey,” a children’s opera based on classic Japanese Noh theater. He is also music director of Opera-tunity, a children’s opera company.

Iwasaki spent part of middle and all of high school in the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District. He took a few years off from college, heading to New York to freelance his music, before getting his associate’s in muic from MCCC in 2009. He then transferred to Temple University for his bachelor’s and then to the Manhattan School of Music for his master’s.

Iwasaki got the chance to study koto, a 13-string Japanese harp, in Japan, thanks to a scholarship through Columbia University. He was drawn to koto by its sound, but also by its possibilities.

For more information on MCCC’s Distinguished Lecture Series, call (609) 570-3324 or visit