No one I have ever interviewed embodied the wide-eyed excitement of a child and teamed it with the creative engineering of a world-class scientist like Ikutaro Kakehashi. Mr. K was passionate and full of gratitude for "being lucky enough" to design and develop musical instruments, which as he often pointed out, would be held in the hands of great musicians who would then make the world sound better! Mr. K was all of these things because nothing was handed to him. He worked hard and he faced many personal and professional challenges that might have discouraged others. He never lost that sense of excitement of creating something new and he never lost focus that the goal was to help musicians make music.
In 1960, he formed Ace Tone, which produced a drum machine he created that was added to preexisting organs. Twelve years later he formed Roland Corporation, which forever changed the world of electronic instruments with services of keyboards, synthesizers and introduced the world to the concept of MIDI.
I met Mr. K at the first NAMM Show I attended. The following year he helped the newly opened Museum of Making Music display a history of the synthesizers at the 2000 NAMM show, which was held that year in Los Angeles. Mr. K had many appointments and business matters to attend to, but yet he was in that museum booth answering questions each day of the show. I had a chance to chat with him several times during that weekend, which was the beginning of a friendship that lasted until his passing in April 2017.
Click here to view a segment from one of our interviews with Mr. K.
By the way, this was the first of many photos taken of Mr. K and me. It remains my favorite because to me it represents the joy of being around such a passionate music maker!
Dan Del Fiorentino
NAMM Music Historian