Hiroshi Arakawa’s dream of playing bluegrass music at the highest level demanded of the 25-year-old from Hiroshima, Japan, an uncommon measure of courage and determination. He was literally struck with inspiration when a singer played the Carter Family classic, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” at his grandmother’s funeral, and after that he taught himself guitar while studying economics in Tokyo, and then he came to the Triangle, home of the World of Bluegrass festival, and studied English at Wake Tech. Then it was on to a bluegrass program at East Tennessee State University.
He was, it seemed, on his way, and certainly he had the confidence and talent to push on, as he revealed in a 2015 News & Observer profile.
But on Thanksgiving Day, tragedy struck when Arakawa and his girlfriend were in a car accident in Raleigh. Arakawa’s girlfriend, Maria Cardona Alvarez, died at the scene. Arakawa is in WakeMed with injuries from which he’s expected to recover. Rallying round is the “bluegrass community,” which may be fond of the “high, lonesome” sound but doesn’t let players be lonesome when in trouble. Steve Martin, actor and banjo player, contributed $1,000 to help Arakawa toward a $15,000 goal.
Arakawa did achieve a goodly measure of attention in the World of Bluegrass spotlight, and deservedly so. An emotional and physical recovery will take time and courage, but Arakawa already knew what it took to pursue his dreams. Shortly, he’ll be back on track, and on stage.