May 27, 2016

Children from Japan / Angola united through music

group photo after the concert
group photo after the concert

Children from two remote countries – Japan and Angola – were blessed with an opportunity to get together and play in an orchestra in Fukushima and Tokyo, Japan, this month. The children from both countries are members of the orchestras nurtured by the El Sistema-inspired music education programs. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Friends of El Sistema Japan launched the Soma Children’s Orchestra in 2013 to equip children in the disaster-affected areas with life skills through music. Kaposoka Symphony Orchestra, on the other hand, started off from the Kaposoka Music School project in 2008 with an aim to support children and youths from poor families in the Samba District of Luanda, Angola, where the aftermaths of colonization and the civil war still impede steady development.  

“Soma has a small town feeling. Air is very fresh here”, said Lourdes, a 19-year old violist, upon arrival in Soma, which is a home ground to the Soma Children’s Orchestra. “I am excited about making new friends because it is fun to play with children from other countries”, commented Katia, an 18-year old violist, with a look of expectancy. The children of Soma and Kaposoka spent only a short time on joint rehearsals but played “Divertimento in D Major, K.136” by Mozart and “Canon in D Major” by Pachelbel in total synchronization. Kazuki, a junior high school bassist, commented, “The way our Angolan peers played music made us smile naturally”. At the end of the concert, the Soma children gave the Soma Children’s Orchestra’s original T-shirts to the Kaposoka children as a token of friendship. Then, the Kaposoka children in turn shared a “gift of music” by playing “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The Soma children sparkled their eyes at the performance, relating themselves to brave pirates who fight against obstacles and open up a new horizon. 

A week later, the Soma and Kaposoka children met in Tokyo for the second round. This time the Kaposoka children attended a rehearsal with the Soma Children’s Orchestra’s T-shirts on. Despite the language barrier, the children from two countries tried to communicate with each other proactively by tapping out the rhythm and conveying messages with gestures. It was clear that they have been brought closer and closer in the process of performing, sharing and creating music together, and, yes, it was culminated when they played “Divertimento in D Major, K.136” on stage. The children demonstrated that there exists no border where music is shared. As they played the final chords, the audience erupted in thunderous applause and cheering with a feeling of unity created by the power of music.

After the concert, the children of Soma and Kaposoka exchanged messages. “I was very happy to play with the friends from Angola today”, said Keigo, a junior high school cellist. Felix, the conductor, then responded with a great smile, “Japan is a wonderful country. Next time, come to Angola, and let’s play Angolan music together”. The children from two countries seem to have become one and continue to be Goodwill Ambassadors.

Thanks to your generous support, we can deliver great programs to children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. We believe our programs have greatly benefited and will keep benefiting them. We will stick to the policy of making music education available to any child who wishes, regardless of his or her family background, disabilities and nationality. We greatly appreciate your harmonious support in all our endeavors. Thank you!

Mar 1, 2016

Marking 5th Anniversary of Japan Earthquake: Children Spread Wings with Music

2nd Children's festival
2nd Children's festival

This year’s March 11 marks the 5th anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan and subsequently instigated nuclear accidents along the coast. Many children were then separated from beloved families and friends, lost homes and went through traumatic experiences. Friends of El Sistema Japan was established in 2012, one year after the disaster, to equip children in the affected areas with life skills through music. Specifically, we have been engaging children in El Sistema-inspired inclusive education program – any child, regardless of his or her family background, disabilities and nationality, can participate in a classical orchestra and chorus and receive music education for free, as far as the child wishes. 

The Friends of El Sistema Japan’s program started off with a modest number of children, partly due to lack of resources. However, now the orchestra has grown to a dynamic group of 90 children while the chorus counts over 60 children. Furthermore, by dispatching music teachers to public schools, we are providing indirect support to approximately 2000 children in the earthquake-affected areas. This has all became possible with incredible commitment and support from those who believe in our program for children.

To commemorate the 5th anniversary of the tragedy, we recently organized the El Sistema Children’s Music Festival with the local government of Soma City, Fukushima. Children were so proud to sing and play instruments with their peers. In fact, the orchestra and chorus itself is now like a big family playing the sounds in harmony. “When I first came to Soma City, I was so lonely away from my kindergarten friends”, said 4th grader Nanaka. Following the earthquake, she evacuated from the coastal town in northeastern Japan, which was contaminated by the nuclear power plant accidents. “But now I have many friends here. Singing with them in front of a large audience like today brings me great joy”, she continued with a big smile. 

At the El Sistema Children’s Music Festival, the children demonstrated the power of music by uniting not only themselves but also their families, friends, and the audience at large – which includes the current and potential supporters like yourself. While the reconstruction efforts continue in various forms, we believe our program has benefited and will keep benefiting those children on the ground. Music, together with friends, can create peace of mind. We greatly appreciate your generous support in all our endeavors.

Dec 4, 2015

The power of music to help us connect with others!

Fabiola and me
Fabiola and me

On November 22nd 2015, Terresa Carreno Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, one of the flagship orchestras from the homeland of El Sistema,came to Soma, Fukushima. 150 young people aged between 16 and 25 played a side by side with Soma Children’s Orchestra. This was a kind of the dream-come-true moment for many of our young musicians.

Misaki (Grade 8) expressed her excitement by saying; 

“…I had a great experience to interact with our El Sistema friends from Venezuela. I am the leader of second violin and was very nervous. However, Fabiola, who sat next to me was very friendly and kind so that I was able to relax and enjoyed talking with her. When we played Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony together, she played really well. I got absorbed in the music playing with her. It was extremely fun. As always, I was amazed by the power of music to help us connect with other people.

It is because of your support that I can have such a wonderful experience. I am grateful from the bottom of my heart.

I will continue to play the violin as a member of this Soma Children’s Orchestra. I hope to encounter a lot of new people and connect with them by music.” 

3 years ago when we established Friends of El Sistema Japan, children in Soma were still living in challenging environment and struggling with traumatic stress caused by earth quake, Tsunami, and subsequent nuclear accident. Many of them lost their family members and friends. They had to be relocated to shelters, and restricted to play outside due to radiation.

We believed in power of music and potential children have. We vision children will grow zest for living through El Sistema inspired music program. We dreamed that someday, children will be able to talk about their own dreams again. Slowly but surely we see positive changes in children as well as community they live in.

As always, our sincere appreciation for your donation and continuous support. Your donation is mainly utilized to provide and maintain children’s instruments, as well as for their daily lessons. If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to hear what you think!

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