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 Children  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

While the typhoon was fast approaching and gray clouds brooded over the city of Soma in northeastern Japan, the members of the Soma Children’s Chorus were practicing “Our Echo”, a set piece for the upcoming chorus contest.

The voice walks, the voice runs

It's alright that everyone has a different voice

The voice, you become a mountain! The voice, you become the sea!

The voice, the voice, you go over it!

The children were singing liberally under the guidance of Mr. Fujio Furuhashi, Music Director of the Soma Children’s Chorus. Experienced in coaching children’s chorus groups as well as serving as a judge at musical contests, he can foresee how the Soma Children’s Chorus will be evaluated at the upcoming contest. “What we are aiming at is not a so-called gold medal. If that was what we wanted, then we could only draw on good, upper grade students to enter the contest”, says Mr. Furuhashi.

In the Soma Children’s Chorus, the children from as young as second graders through high school seniors learn chorus together. You can often observe the older students taking care of the little ones like siblings. They guide group lessons, make sure no one is left behind and even find a way to distribute differently flavored candies in a fair and peaceful manner. “We are like one big family. In this kind of environment, there is no bullying. Our children will grow into caring and responsible adults”, Mr. Furuhashi hints at what may be considered the ‘gold medal’.

“We are not playing for competitions”, Mr. Yohei Asaoka, Music Director of the Soma Children’s Orchestra, also emphasizes. “By immersing themselves in the music created by the world’s greatest composers, the children will be able to relive the very beauty that the composers pursued in human beings. It is an invaluable experience. I just would like the children to get their hands on the great sensation arising from the experience”, Mr. Asaoka speaks enthusiastically about the goal he has set forth with the children.  

The Soma Children’s Orchestra is, of course, trying to achieve musical excellence, but what the children are picking up along the way is equally or even more important. Haruka, a first year junior high school violinist, gained self-confidence by participating in the Soma Children’s Orchestra where children of different ages and grades gather from different schools. “I used to be very shy, but now I can talk to and make new friends of different backgrounds”, she smiles.

Akari, another first year junior high school student with a visual impairment, seems to have found a place for herself in the Soma Children’s Orchestra. She started at a boarding school in Tokyo from the spring but comes back to Soma every weekend to practice and play with the other children. “It’s fun to play the violin in an orchestra setting”, she talks like a real music lover.       

Whether it is the Soma Children’s Chorus or the Soma Children’s Orchestra, it is our unchanged and unchallenged policy to accept and support any child with free music education. The child may gain first-hand experience in music and be awoken by its beauty, learn the pleasure of expressing themselves through music or simply be happy with the friendships and bonds built through playing music together. Everybody has a different voice. Everybody has different dreams and aspirations. So, everybody’s prize will be a little different.

Friends of El Sistema Japan is dedicated to delivering programs that nurture life skills for children. We appreciate your continued support in all our endeavors.

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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!

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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.

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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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Soma Civic Center was filled with joyful and heavenly voice of Soma Children’s Chorus, as young and talented Hungarian-Japanese professional pianist Miyuji Kaneko accompanied with the children. On July 17th 2015, a recital of rising star Steinway artist Kaneko was held at Soma Civic Center. 60 members of Soma Children’s Chorus were invited, and like many other audiences the children were enchanted by Kaneko’s performance; music piece includes Hungarian music giant Bartók Béla, Chopin and Liszt. During the concert, the children had an opportunity to sing along with Kaneko’s piano, and they beautifully performed the piece they have been practicing for days; “Esteli notazas“ written by Hungarian composer Jószef Karai, in its original language! It must have been quite nervous and challenging experience for the children, but what we witnessed in them was only confidence and joy.

After the concert, we received an anonymous note which reads;

“Being aged like myself, living alone and not capable of going too far from home, today was such a special day. The concert reminded me how wonderful and how nourishing music is. I was concerned that children in Soma too, not being able to have cultural experiences because our town is in remote area, but I am very happy to see that they have such a great opportunity because El Sistema is here in Soma. Playing together with a professional artist during childhood is a treasure and life-altering experience. Thank you El Sistema Japan, for reaching out to children in our community. Today, I am encouraged, energized, and I feel I can overcome challenges lies before me. Thank you.”

This program was originally started to help children to recover from trauma of earth quake, tsunami, and other hardships followed by the disaster. However, now we see one by one, people around the children also transforming their lives.

We thank you, Global Giving donors for your continuous support. Because of your committed contribution, many children are making positive changes in their lives as well as community they live in. We are determined to expand our program and reach out to more children in needs!

As always, we value your feedback. Please feel free to contact us for any suggestions and opinions. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

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Organization Information

Friends of El Sistema Japan

Location: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo - Japan
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Yutaka Kikugawa
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo Japan
$28,415 raised of $150,000 goal
 
242 donations
$121,585 to go
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