Life could have turned out very different for musician Elia Gaitau.
Eleven years ago, Elia was offered a job working on a boat cruise. He turned it down because it didn’t “feel right”. A few weeks later, he was asked to go to Japan to play piano at a hotel resort. His life has never been the same since, he said.
Elia is from Auckland, New Zealand, but is based in Tokyo, Japan, where he teaches music and plays piano at restaurants, clubs, festivals and weddings. He also composes his own music and is currently working on an album.
It was in Japan where Elia, 44, met his wife Naoko and could pursue a career as a musician.
“I threw myself in the deep end by coming to Japan,” he said. “I’m blessed I can play piano and help people feel the Spirit, but it’s just a tool that Heavenly Father has blessed me with. Everyone has a talent—I’m just trying to use mine.”
Elia grew up in a Samoan church but joined the Church when he was 20 years old. He became curious after he met an LDS musician in high school who was “filled with light”.
He’s been playing piano since but was never formally taught.
“Playing piano has always been a way to express myself,” he said. “I remember sitting by a piano on Sundays and just thinking about God. Then I would just start playing. For me, it’s a way to communicate with God.”
Elia is a big believer in being self-reliant both temporally and spiritually.
“Playing the piano has helped me provide for my wife and son, and I never thought it was something I could do,” he said. “We are taught to be self-reliant in Church. For me, that is keeping the commandments, honouring my duties as a priesthood holder as well as doing prayers and scripture reading.
“Miracles come when we do the right thing.”
Elia had a lot of role models growing up who inspired him to pursue music as a career. He encourages others to work on their talents but said it’s not easy.
“It’s about learning your craft, being respectful to others, practising, and becoming better. It’s an ongoing pursuit of excellence.”
He said the greatest blessing is being able to use his talent to serve and provide for his family.
“To have people cry and come up to you and tell you that you have somehow touched them through your music—that is the ultimate compliment you can have as a musician, that your music has touched someone.”