Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Joint Rehearsal and Concert at Ichikawa Gakuen -Kate Huffman

Today we arrived in the city of Ichikawa located in northwest Chiba, Japan, about 40 minutes to an hour outside of Tokyo.

Ichikawa, population 469,603, is a small city compared to the capital city of Tokyo, with a population of 8 million, that we got to explore yesterday.  It contains many local attractions including
Hokeky┼Ź-ji, a Buddhist temple; a Zoological & Botanical Garden; and a Wild Bird Observatory - just to name a few.  

Skyscape from City of Ichikawa Official Website

Ichikawa is home to two universities, Chiba University of Commerce and Wayo Women's University.  There are many public schools in Ichikawa, but we had the pleasure of having a combined rehearsal and concert at the private Ichikawa Gakuen Junior High & High School.  

Ichikawa Gakuen School is a large private school of about 2,500 male and female students (compare that to the 1,747 students of Wartburg!).  The school was opened in 1937, and only allowed male students until 2003. 

Front of Ichikawa Gakuen

Today's concert at Ichikawa Gakuen was the Wind Ensemble's first in Japan. We arrived to many smiles and giggles from students as they watched us carry bags and equipment into the school.  Many students said hello to us in both English and Japanese and then whispered excitedly to their friends as we responded.

We began rehearsal in the large auditorium with a devotion from Erika Verburg. She introduced herself in Japanese to the Ichikawa Gakuen band students waiting to join our rehearsal and they loved it. After a warm-up and run-through of a few pieces by the Wind Ensemble, our friends from the school came up and joined us.  Because the band club ('club' not class - band, choir, and orchestra are extra-curricular activities at Ichikawa Gakuen, as well as most other schools in Japan) is composed of 180 students, just a sampling of middle school and high school students joined us to rehearse our combined pieces, Yagi Bushi and Stars and Stripes Forever. The students that I sat by seemed very excited and were a little anxious to find the correct English words to express themselves, but they did very well.

Concert hall at Ichikawa Gakuen

We changd quickly after rehearsal and began our concert.  After our portion of the concert was done, the band students that had practiced with us earlier came up on stage and played the two combined pieces with us. During the concert, school officials gave speeches thanking us for coming and saying how music is a universal language that we can always use to make friends no matter if we are from Japan, the United States, or anywhere else.  There was an exchange of gifts in which the Wind Ensemble was given an Ichikawa Gakuen school pennant and a beautiful wind sock in the shape of a carp.  Dr. Hancock then presented the school officials with a book of photos of Iowa with a personal note in the front.  There was also a surprise gift of gorgeous red, black, and white kimonos given to Dr. Hancock, Dr. Wachmann, and Erika. 

We had a great time playing together, but the best was yet to come.  We went to a reception after the concert where we met with band and orchestra students grouped by instrument. I got to talk with two girls who play the clarinet about their lives abd some of their favorite things. We found out that we all really like West Side Story and Harry Potter! Eventually those of us who weren't staying in homestays had to head to our hotel, but many groups followed each other on Twitter and found each other on facebook so they could stay in touch. 

This was an amazing first combined rehearsal and concert experience. It was reiterated to me that music has the power to bring people together and no matter where one comes from, there is always something that two people can have in common - like music......and Harry Potter. : ) 

- Kate Huffman

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