Friday, May 1, 1998

Making Music Together

by Rachel Pinsky

Arriving at Sapporo's Shiroishi High School at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, the long hours of travel and lack of sleep that the CCHS concert band had experienced in the previous two days was evident on the members' faces. Attempting to keep the yawns to a minimum, we gathered our instruments and navigated through the hallways, towards one of the school's gymnasiums. There, we had only a few moments to warm up and tune before our rehearsal began. Afterwards, Shiroishi's Symphonic Wind Ensemble rehearsed their own part of the concert and we watched in wonderment as the Japanese musicians leapt from their chairs and launched into a choreographed dance, while still playing their instruments. The rehearsal was followed by a lunch break, our first real meal in Japan.

At 1:15 p.m., our band received one of our director Mr. Dentino's inspirational pep talks before lining up in single file to make our appearance. Any sleepiness that I had experienced completely disappeared the moment I entered the gymnasium. What I saw was an eager audience of 1200 Japanese students, clapping. Our performance improved as we adjusted to the humidity inside the gym. The CCHS jazz band then played a few selections, which featured a number of talented soloists. The Shiroishi band members, clad in spiffy red sport jackets, performed familiar tunes such as "Pocahontas." At the end of the concert, the two bands performed an energetic "Stars and Stripes" and "El Capitan" together. Even though we could not speak with words, we were able to communicate through the language of music. After rip-roaring applause, the Shiroishi student audience, dressed in conservative navy uniforms, exited the gym, only to greet us again as we entered the school lobby.

There, to my astonishment, were hundreds of Japanese students, screaming in excitement, as they surrounded us. The girls acted as though our male band members were celebrities; they asked for autographs, posed for pictures, and even kissed feet! The Shiroishi boys, while a little more shy, seemed equally thrilled at our appearance. As we boarded the buses to go back to the hostels, we received an enthusiastic sendoff.

Our final and perhaps most special concert was the Concord Nanae Friendship Concert held at the Bunka Cultural Center on Monday evening. After a short sound check in the magnificent hall, we waited as hundreds of Nanae citizens, including many of our homestay families, arrived to hear us perform. Nanae Junior High School's band, an extremely talented young ensemble, played "March of the Brave-hearted" and "Fantastic Animation of Hayao-Miyazaki." The CCHS band then took the stage and, under the direction of an elated Mr. Dentino, performed "The Dragoons of Villars" and "Symphonic Gershwin," along with other pieces. The jazz band dazzled the audience with "Summertime," "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," and "Tribute." The two bands returned to the stage to perform "Greensleeves" and "The Star Spangled Banner" together.

After an exhilarating rendition of "Stars and Stripes" as an encore, members of the Nanae community presented Mr. Dentino and the band with flowers and gifts, and we did the same. As students from both sides of the world shuffled off the stage, we knew that this night would be long remembered by all of us.