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Victoria heart surgeon picks up music after almost 30-year break

By JR Ortega
Nov. 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Updated Nov. 2, 2010 at 6:02 a.m.

Yahagi performs at Hastings in Victoria during open mic night, playing songs from Eric Clapton and The Beatles. Yahagi has returned to play for an audience after about 20 years of dedicating himself fully to his career in medicine.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Yusuke Yahagi has worked with many hearts, but never really his own until two months ago, when he decided something was missing.

Yahagi decided to charge up the heart defibrillator and revive another one of his passions - music.

The 51-year-old had been to several concerts by local artist Jerry James and remembered the 1980s when he was in a rock band in Seattle.

"I've always loved medicine," he said. "But I kind of had to revive what I used to have."


Donning white pants and a dressy black, long-sleeved shirt with the three top buttons undone, Yahagi tuned his guitar.

Nerves and excitement tickled Yahagi in all the right places, after all, he was about to perform publicly for the first time in about 30 years at Hastings' open mic night.

About 40 people packed the entertainment store's Hard Back Cafe.

Yahagi has always enjoyed playing varying types of rock and bluegrass music but since his performing days became dormant, it had become nothing more than a nice thing to listen to, he said.

"I never had motivation to go through with music," he said.

Yahagi was the vocalist and lead guitarist in Crystal, the band he rocked with for two or three years.

His bassist was Eddie Jackson, who is now the bassist of Queensryche, a progressive metal band.

A chemistry major at the time, life was a little bit low-key for Yahagi.

But as school and life became a bigger priority, music played a smaller role in his life.

But at Hastings that night, it was just him and his music.

"It's fun for me and for everyone," he said.

Yahagi practiced several different songs to perform a set at open mic night.

He practiced songs by The Beatles and Eric Clapton, two of his all-time favorite performers.

"I like to keep my ears open to different types of music," he said.

Stephanie Zapata, 24, had coordinated the open mic night for several months but no longer works at Hastings.

She passed the torch to Will Cusack, an 18-year-old Cuero High School student who shares a passion for music and even performs music - Christian contemporary.

"I just like to give the local musicians a chance to shine," said the coordinator. "I'm all about local artists. It's pretty popular. There's not very many places to throw shows."

He sees open mic night continuing.

"I feel this expanding as well," he said.


April Yahagi had a smile ear-to-ear when her husband kicked off his performance with "Yesterday" by The Beatles.

He even wrote a song, "Victoria, Texas," in which he lyrically talked about his experience and thoughts on the city.

Seeing him relax this way is different but nice, she said.

"He'll ask, 'Can I play?'" she said laughing about how he asks permission to practice before watching her favorite television show.

Jerry James was not able to attend Yahagi's performance but said he immediately had a connection with the doctor.

"I take it as a compliment," said James of Yahagi's admiration. "You hope that when you're performing that you're coming across as being accessible. Now he's going to get out there and share it with someone else."

James noticed a light spark in Yahagi when they would talk about music tastes and guitar, said James, who performs country, rock and blues.

"We both basically came up in the same era," he said.

Yahagi would eventually like to form a band again, but for now, he's just enjoying the high and relaxation that performing has once again brought to his life.

"I'm in a totally different world than heart surgery," he said.



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