This semester, I continued playing in 吹奏楽団せせらぎ (Suisōgakudan Seseragi) on tuba. We are currently rehearsing a variety of pieces, most of which are selections from films and 20th-century pop artists. I have been able to continue to converse about a variety of topics, not only music, with my fellow members. I will be able to remain in Japan until July, when the annual concert will be held, so I plan on participating, which I am excited about.
The highlight of this semester was being able to participate in a brass quintet. We practiced several times over the course of two months, and on March 25th, we performed at壬生老人ホーム (Mibu Elderly Home) for a group of elderly residents, who seemed to greatly enjoy the performance and the different brass instruments. The おばあさんcommented on how big the tuba was: 「大きいね!」「すごい!」. The pieces that we performed were 三百六十五歩マーチ, なごり雪, 故郷, 上を向いて歩こう, 青い山脈, and また逢う日まで. It was wonderful to get to know the other members of the quintet well and play these nostalgic Japanese songs.
Something that I have observed while playing in Seseragi is the formality required, especially by younger, newer members. In the United States, regardless of age or skill, the conductor is usually very informal and generally is more comfortable correcting or criticizing the players for their mistakes. In general, during practice in Japan, the conductor is very polite when asking players to correct their mistakes, while players are very polite 「はい、分かりました」when responding to the conductor. I think that this demonstrates the importance of the social customs of Japan in even recreational activities, which is different than in the United States. However, this is not necessarily a bad point; it simply illustrates the vast difference between cultures.
I didn’t know that you will be staying that long in Japan; its great that you have enough time to actually perform in a concert in Japan. As I’ve already participated in a Shamisen concert here before, I can tell you that its a surreal and amazing experience.
My question is about the status of band in Japan. You mentioned that the older Japanese people commented on the tuba as if they have never seen it before; is band not a common thing in Japan? Compared to the United States, how popular would you say band is?
Thank you for your comment.
Naturally, concert and marching band came to Japan later than was the case with the United States, so the instruments are more unfamiliar, especially among older people.
The tuba, I have found, often elicits similar responses everywhere because, even if people know what it is, they are often impressed by its size. They may have heard of it but never seen one in person.
I do believe that, as is the case in other East Asian countries, western music and instruments are becoming more popular in Japan, especially in middle and high schools. Some of the best ensembles I have ever heard were Japanese ones.
You mentioned that you were also able to converse with your fellow members about topics other than music. What do you guys usually talk about? Have you been able to find some common ground between 若者 in Japan and those in the States?
Usually, we talk about subjects such as college life and our interests. However, the members are not just college students; in fact, the majority of the members are in their 30s and 40s. It is indeed true that college life is very different between Japan and the United States.