Education  Japan Project #14117

Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus

by Friends of El Sistema Japan
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Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus
Soma Children's Orchestra and Chorus

In addition to the operation of orchestra and chorus in Soma over weekends, El Sistema Japan has always been placing importance on supporting curricular activities in school as we work in partnership
with the local Board of Education.

Shown in the photos below are fifth graders attending a music appreciation workshop at Soma Iitoyo Elementary School on 21 November. With kind support from a local Japanese harp school, Ms. Monma and her students all gathered together.

The students first listened to Koto, traditional Japanese harps and then tried them out. Ms. Monma played the piece Haru no Umi (Spring Sea) with Mr. Ueda, previously a member of the Board of Education, managing activities with us and now a farmer and flautist. After the performance, the children tried out the Japanese harps. There was one harp for every four children and they orderly took turns to play Sakura Sakura. Joined by recorders, all sounded quite well for their first trial.

Nowadays it is rare to hear traditional Japanese instruments even in Japan. The school teachers and the board members appreciated this precious opportunity for the children to listen to and try such instruments.

In small cities like Soma, schools with smaller numbers of children are often too tight in resources to hire music teachers with specialist training. El Sistema Japan assists those schools to provide higher quality music appreciation classes, specialist training on classroom musical instruments like the recorder and the melodica, support for marching bands, and so forth. This is part of the government funded disaster relief program, which sends specialists including, but not limited to, emergency school counselors to the affected region. Most of the specialists we work with are also from the region.

Promoting children’s access to art and culture is one of our priorities at El Sistema Japan. It is important that children without easy access to art and culture still have opportunities to experience
and learn music of good standard. We are thankful for your support.

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Soma-Nomaoi is one of the famous traditional festivals in Japan with a history of over 1000 years. During the festival season, Soma city is filled with excitement welcoming both domestic and foreign visitors. The festival is held for 3 days in a row. After the first day’s departure ceremony (Syutsujin-shiki) and Samurai procession (Musya-gyouretsu), the Soma City holds a welcome reception for special guests. 

This reception consisted of guests from all over Japan who have relationship with Soma City. It was such an honor for Soma Children’s Orchestra to be invited to perform at the opening, conducted by Mr. Okazaki, our music director.

The Vivaldi's L'estro Armonico No.8 "Concerto for 2 violins" was a specially memorable piece for the orchestra, because it was played at the summer seminar with teachers from Venezuela 6 years ago.

The first and third movement was performed at the reception, and the soloists, Takayuki (grade 11) and Momoka (grade 9), played their parts passionately. 

As the orchestra's tradition, the performance was closed with a very famous local folk song, "Soma Bonuta," which was arranged for strings, flutes and Japanese drums.

Mr. Ueda, who played an important role in establishing the Soma Children's Orchestra, also joined the performance by playing the Piccolo. He was a former Soma City Council senior official, who was responsible for the city's music and performing art programs .

We have received multiple compliments such as how it was wonderful, and how they were moved by the performance. We would especially like to thank the concerned people of Soma City for making this precious opportunity possible.

We also highly appreciate continuous support given by our Global Giving partners — thank you!

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When Itsuki started to take flute lessons from Mr. Okazaki at wind instrument class provided by Soma Children’s Orchestra, her 3rd-grader-hands were not mature yet to play the full-sized instrument. Sakurai Flute, a famous Japanese customized flute maker was kind enough to lend a flute specially manufactured for small children upon request from Mr. Okazaki.

After playing the small-sized flute for nearly two years, Itsuki turned into 5thgrader this spring and decided to return the instrument to Sakurai Flute with a message for the maker. The polite words in the hand-written letter conveyed her gratefulness for the time she played the only flute in the world, affection for the instrument itself and passion for music.

 “Dear Sakurai Flute,

I’m stepping forward and returning the kids flute.

It’s been almost two years since I started to play with it. Seeing my hands becoming larger, my flute teacher recommended me to use the full-sized one, so I am switching to a new flute.

I have both happy and sad feelings about using a different flute. Now I am getting used to the full-sized one. I want to appreciate your kindness to let me use the only flute in the world. Thank you very much.


Eagerness and seriousness for music drives Itsuki. Once Itsuki secretly got up and started to practice the flute at five o’clock in the morning on the day of the flute lesson, which of course woke up everyone in the house. With her new full-sized flute that has already become a good partner, Itsuki continues pursuing music.

We also highly appreciate continuous support given by our global giving partenrs - thank you!

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El Sistema Japan held its annual event, the 5thChildren’s Music Festival in Soma city, Fukushima prefecture where their program for orchestra and chorus started 7 years ago.  

The festival consisted of several parts – performance of brass bands from local schools and Soma Children’s Chorus’ vivid singing-and-dancing stage on the first day of the event. The second day started with the orchestral performance by Soma Children’s Orchestra and the following was the guest performance by the Oxford University Orchestra (OUO) from the U.K. who visited the city as one of the destinations in their first Japan charity tour. OUO members led by Mr. Shun Hioki, who not only served as a fellow, a teaching artist volunteer at an early stage of the Soma program but also studied at Oxford had a strong willingness to show their solidarity and compassion to those children affected by tsunami and nuclear accident in 2011. The audience gave extraordinary admiring applause to OUO when their brass members solemnly performed “A Song for Japan” by Verhelst, the piece dedicated to the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.  

In a spectacular finale of the festival, total number of 230 - aged 6 to 88 musicians including OUO, Soma Children’s Orchestra & Chorus and locals joined one stage to perform “Pomp and Circumstance March No.1” by Elgar and “Soma-Bonnuta”, the renowned traditional local folk song together. Performing the piece that is widely loved in each other’s country showed a mutual respect to the cultural backgrounds and that every participant was united in a beauty of music. 

We also highly appreciate continuous support given by our Global Giving partners — thank you!

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The big moment— El Sistema Festival 2018 Review

On a fine December Saturday, “El Sistema Festival 2018 — El Sistema Gala Concert” was held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater. The concert consisted of two parts. The first part was the performance of children orchestras from Soma, Otsuchi and Komagane where we are delivering a day-to-day assistance. The second part was the performance of Tokyo White Hand Chorus and Venezuelan vocal ensemble  “Lara Somos” in the very presence of Her Imperial Majesty Empress Michiko.

Children challenged with a young maestro

The first part started with Mozart’s famous “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” (Serenade No. 13 in G major KV 525). The orchestra of the children from three cities was conducted by a spirited young maestro Enluis Montes Olivar from Venezuela, the birthplace of El Sistema. Enluis encouraged children to enjoy playing as well as to aim toward further height. 79 children from elementary to high-school-age were led by the lively and fluent conductor to make brilliant sound together.

The unique “sound” made from diverse expressions 

After the short intermission, the second part started. As stated previously, it was a great honor to hold this part in the presence of Her Imperial Majesty Empress Michiko. The part was the performance of two vocal groups from Japan and Venezuela — Tokyo White Hand Chorus and Lara Somos.

Tokyo White Hand Chorus consists of two teams. One is the voice team with visually impaired children and the other is the hand-sign team with hearing impaired children. They performed “Furusato no Sora” (literally means “The sky of the old home”) and “Edelweiss” with two conductors — Mr. Tsuchino and Ms. Colon who had taught them for the concert. Some children looked nervous at the beginning of their performance, but they finally were able to sing relaxingly.

Lara Somos is a Venezuelan vocal group including some players of ethnic instruments. They performed four songs such as “The girl from Ipanema” in mellow sound. After that, the hand-sign team of Tokyo White Hand Chorus reappeared and played three songs such as “Sukiyaki” and “Venezuela” together. Children in the White Hand Chorus had a lot of rehearsals to perform on the same stage with Lara Somos whom they had been admiring. They looked really delighted to play together and their feeling seemed to be shared through the whole audiences.

“Play together, grow together” — what El Sistema is aiming at

At the end of the concert, all musicians performed “Yuyake Koyake" and "Alma Llanera" together. Yuyake Koyake (literally means "afterglow") is a nursery rhyme everyone knows in Japan and Alma Llanera is a song regarded as the second national anthem by Venezuelan people. Everyone inside the hall seemed to feel nostalgic when they heard the songs. We believe the whole audience could feel that music could be inclusive and connect people of diverse background and culture. That is what El Sistema is aiming at.

After the concert, children who made great performances said excitedly;
“I'm finally satisfied with my performance although I couldn’t do it during rehearsal”
“With friends, I can do what I can’t do it alone”
“Great fun to play together!”

We also highly appreciate continuous support given by our Global Giving partners — thank you!

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Organization Information

Friends of El Sistema Japan

Location: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo - Japan
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Yutaka Kikugawa
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo Japan
$38,202 raised of $150,000 goal
374 donations
$111,798 to go
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