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Pianist's plight plays out with jazz

Yuko Kishimoto is a jazz pianist and member of the Capital Region's jazz family. She's provided a funky backdrop to Sunday brunches at Justin's on Lark Street and written original compositions and arrangements for Keith Pray's Big Soul Ensemble, a standard at Tess' Lark Tavern and now the Van Dyck in Schenectady.

And now, the Japanese native is setting her sights on Saratoga, scheduled to perform at Max London's on Broadway on May 14, June 11 and July 9 during the restaurant's new Saturday jazz nights.

But those three gigs could be her last.

"If nothing comes up, I have to go back to Japan. I don't have a choice," said Kishimoto.

Since 2003, she had a full-time job teaching piano at a private music school in Albany. But when she suddenly lost that job out of nowhere in August 2010, she also lost the work visa she'd been staying in the U.S. on.

"When I lost the job, I lost the visa, so after that I have to pursue a different type of visa to stay in the country," said Kishimoto.

The easiest route was to apply for a tourist visa, which she's already had to extend once. Now, without a full-time employer willing to go through the paperwork to secure her a new work visa, she'll be forced to return to Japan on Sept.3 when her tourist visa expires.

"I have to have employment that sponsors me for a visa. I have to have a boss, I have to work for somebody," said Kishimoto.

That means she can't stay in the country as a freelance jazz performer. She has to supplement her passion with a professional job in her area of college study, in this case a piano degree, which means a job teaching piano.

"I've looked around here and everywhere in the country and I'm still looking," said Kishimoto, who has a bachelors and masters from Michigan State. "It could be a college job or a job at a private music school."

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