Friday, January 17, 2003
Japanese musicians find a home with CCHS band members
When the students of the Shiroishi-Sapporo High School Band from the Japanese island of Hokkaido came to CCHS to play in a joint concert at Symphony Hall, they were met with a hearty welcome from students and their families in the community. Instead of staying in a hotel, the Japanese students were housed with Concord or Carlisle kids. My family and I took in two sixteen-year-old Japanese girls, Ayumi Kumazawa and Saori Takada. I am so glad that we agreed to do this because I learned a lot about both Japanese and American cultures during their stay here.
The day they arrived was, as can be expected, the most awkward. When all the students met at the reception, I had no idea about Ayumi's or Saori's personalities or their English-speaking abilities. As it turned out, they knew how to say introductory words such as "hello" and understood questions like, "When is your birthday?" and "Are you hungry?" but not much more. Throughout the stay I tried to keep my speech as simple as possible. Often, when talking to them, I had to omit whole parts of sentences I usually took for granted. They rarely used verbs when speaking, so neither did I. My family spent the first night trying to ask Ayumi and Saori questions about themselves and whether they were comfortable. We would ask the question first one way and, if they didn't understand it, we would ask it in another way, using synonyms. If that did not succeed, we would write it down or draw a picture. In one instance, I had to draw an alarm clock to ask if they had brought one so they could wake up at 6 a.m. to get to school on time.
I believe what helped our relations the most was the rehearsal and performance at Symphony Hall. To me, the Japanese band sounded more talented than our band did, but one has to take into account the fact that their band practices eighteen hours a week, as opposed to our four hours, and they are all completely devoted to their instruments. The Concert Band and the Sapporo-Shiroishi Band played four pieces together, and I was able to talk to them about that music. Music in general is an important part of almost all cultures, and it really connected everyone performing that night. The pieces the two bands played together just felt magical. The sound was huge but still melodic, and I felt like there was no way I could play a wrong note, even though I was tired and dehydrated.
As a result of the concert, I felt very close to Ayumi and Saori by the end of the three days. Unfortunately, they were to leave at that time. As all the Japanese students and host families were waiting for the bus, the students took many pictures. Once one person began taking her camera out, more people did the same, until it seemed everyone in the room got their pictures taken in some group or another. I think the Japanese did this to hold the memory of their experience, and I hope I do likewise. I look forward to seeing them again when the Concert Band travels to Hokkaido this April.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito