Over the years with Boston Brass, I have had the privilege to perform with wind ensembles of all ages and levels around the world. I thought it would be interesting to share my personal experiences working with a group from Japan, highlighting some of the differences and similarities in music education there.
The Seika Girls High School in Fukuoka, Japan, has one of my favorite high school wind ensembles in the country. Boston Brass has performed with the group in the United States and in Japan. Hearing this band play is awe-inspiring.
Many of the high school bands in Japan are coed, but a lot of them are losing boys to sports. Like sports, band is a huge time commitment. Many Japanese bands rehearse two to three hours after school every day.
Most of the younger students don’t take private lessons. A majority of the schools will hire coaches to run sectionals, which are required in addition to the full rehearsals.
In many bands, older students teach younger students and become role models. Many of the older Japanese students are taught by adult professionals, so that they can expand their skills and pass along ideas that they get from their instrument teachers.
Japanese bands will have one or two big concerts a year. However, many small performances are sprinkled throughout the season. The Seika Band performs almost every weekend during the school year.
Also, most of the high schools enter the All Japan Band Competition and will have three to four performances leading up to the event. Performing at the All Japan Band Competition is similar to performing at The Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference in Chicago.
If you have never heard a Japanese high school wind ensemble, I strongly recommend that you go on YouTube to experience the artistry and sound firsthand.