After an incredible run of Japanese debut performances in beautiful Nagoya, we jumped on the train for our next destination- the beautiful rural village of Soma City!
Once there, the band joined forces with Friends of El Sistema Japan for a workshop alongside some of the most inspiring young musicians we've been privileged to encounter. An offshoot organization of the same El Sistema that has changed the educational and cultural landscape of Venezuela (and in turn, the world,) the Japanese program targets talented young musicians facing serious adversity through artistic engagement.
These students, in particular, have a story we won't soon forget. Soma City, you see, is located in an area of Japan most at risk for nuclear radiation resulting from the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake catastrophe- a good part of the surrounding area is deemed potentially unsafe for prolonged exposure. As a result, these kids spend relatively little time outside; their need for creative stimulation to offset the surplus of indoor time, not to mention the traumatic stress of these tragedies, is what compelled the founders of the program to focus on Soma City in the first place.
The result is a program focused on engaging students artistically while also nurturing peer-to-peer interaction and friendship as their community reconstructs itself both physically and emotionally. Life is different for these students, certainly; but the silver lining is the enormous creative output these students are creating through their focused curriculum. It's nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Our goal in Soma was to expand students' understanding of instrumental capabilities further than they already knew. Using demonstrations of extended technique and alternate notation adapted from The Listening Room, the ensemble's stateside educational program, Claire, Rebekah, Josh, Nathan and Nick demonstrated a spectrum of timbres, sounds, and experimental possibilities that the young composers took in stride! From a melancholic oboe line played directly into a piano lid, generating eerie overtones, to a short tone poem for mbira, these kids truly floored us with their adventurous spirit and remarkable prowess for their young age. It was an experience we won't soon forget, to say the least.
Our thanks to Soma City and Friends of El Sistema Japan for this incredible opportunity to inspire, empower, and create music. Next stop- Shibuya, for our Tokyo premiere at Hakuju Hall!