Fukushima High School Students Receive Applause from 200 People in New York After Conveying their Feelings through the Japanese Folksong “Furusato”
From August 16 to 21, 2016, eight students from the music club of Fukushima Futaba Mirai Gakuen High School traveled to the United States to participate in a workshop with the New York Philharmonic on the TOMODACHI Suntory Fukushima Mirai Music Program.
The program was launched in February 2016, and aims to help “rehabilitate the hearts” of the students through music, five years after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Futaba Mirai Gakuen is a middle and high school established in April 2015 when the five schools within the Futaba district in Fukushima prefecture were uncertain as to when they would be able to resume because of the effects of the disaster that happened at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant.
During the first half of the program, the students were engaged in composing music alongside the renowned New York Philharmonic and also interacted with American composers of the same age. Prior to flying to the United States, the students had received instruction in Japan from the globally established composer and conductor, emeritus professor of Fukushima University Takehito Shimazu, to create a variation of the Japanese folk song “Fursato” (which means “hometown” in Japanese). During the arranging and composing process, the students incorporated their school songs, and their feelings toward their hometowns into the variation.
In addition to composing music and practicing, the students also had a chance to tour the areas of New York to places such as Top of the Rock and interacted with American culture and language.
On the day of the concert, an audience of more than two hundred people gathered at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center. Masaki Tomioka, Senior General Manager of the CSR Department, Corporate Communication Division of Suntory Holdings Limited quoted to the audience, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” and expressed gratitude for U.S support during Operation Tomodachi, which provided immediate disaster relief in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. He further mentioned that he is, “…delighted that the students passion and Fukushima’s energy can be shared.” U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) Board of Director, Frederick H. Katayama commented that the “U.S.-Japan Council fosters and promotes people-to-people connections through our collaborative program. This program is the perfect example to illustrate our mission of the USJC.”
During the concert, the students performed their original music that they composed, and presented their feelings that they had during their composing process. The club leader, Issei Endo, who continues to live in an evacuation shelter since the disaster, reflected, “It was a rare opportunity to interact with renowned players. In the piece, I wanted to convey how I met different people and how I gradually found hope for recovery after I lost everything in the disaster from the Great East Japan Earthquake.”
Their compilation was followed by a performance by the New York Philharmonic and other guest artists, including a jazz performance by Kumpei Iki (clarinet player) and Takeru Saito (piano player), who are recipients of the TOMODACHI Suntory Music Scholarship Program. Their performance captured the hearts of the audience. Takeru Saito mentioned, “The variation of ‘Furusato’ that the students composed was very well done and I could tell how much effort was put into it. By seeing the participants close by, I was able again realize one of the most important things – what to convey through music.”
At the end of the concert, the lyrics of “Furusato” was projected on the screen, and the students played the song under the conduction of Professor Shimazu, which received a big round of applause. Five years after the disaster, the eight students from Fukushima took a new step forward in New York.