(cover photo: Singapore attendees with interpreter Mr Julian Greening and the author, me!)
The Japan Band Clinic (JBC) is held in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka in May every year. It is the biggest conference for band activities in Asia.
This year, the 46th JBC took place from 15 to 17 May at Hamamatsu Act City, a multipurpose complex with facilities such as two concert halls, an exhibition and event hall and the congress centre. I attended JBC for the first time when I was a 19 year old, and have participated every year since.
The JBC was started in 1969, modeled after the Midwest Clinic held in Chicago, Illinois. This year, more than 1,200 people participated in JBC from all around Japan, and also some Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, South Korea and Thailand.
There were some clinics by well-known musician and directors, and concerts by top standard bands from all categories; elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, music colleges, community bands and professional ensembles.
Many publishers, colleges and music agencies also set up their booths at the exhibition hall for the attendees to view and purchase scores, CDs, and DVDs. There were a total of 10 concerts, 37 clinics and 30 booths in the JBC.
The clinic sessions were held in daytime. There were multiple courses running concurrently, and participants were able to choose each course based on their interests. The clinics were categorized into five classes: for young directors, for experienced directors, for advanced directors, for elementary band directors and special sessions.
A course called “Band Teaching 101” was held by Mr. Toshiro Ozawa, the chairman of JBC committee, at the very beginning of the clinic. He mentioned about the most fundamental things for band teaching and it was a must-listen course for first time attendances.
One of the special highlights for this year was the conducting courses by Mr. Takeshi Ooi, the principal conductor of Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. In previous years, the participants were asked to conduct two pianos in this course, but the Shobi Wind Orchestra, from SHOBI College of Music, performed as a model band this year, allowing participants to conduct and actual band to receive feedback from Mr. Ooi.
The sessions by Mr. Yo Goto, a member of the JBC committee, had always been suggestive. He had four courses this year: literature study, repertoire study, score analysis for small bands and the study of musical expression. I listened to two of them and was impressed with his attitude to point out the core of the many problems.
In each night, almost all the attendances will gather in the concert hall to listen to the concert performances of well-known bands. On the first night, the Seika Girls’ High School Symphonic Band showcased a high quality performance with musicality, proving themselves as one of the most popular high school bands in Japan. Mr. Yoshihisa Fujishige who had conducted the band for 35 years was retired last March, so a new teacher, Mr. Noriaki Sakurauchi conducted most of the program, with Mr. Fujishige conducting two pieces as a guest conductor. Although it was a nice performance under Mr. Sakurauchi, the band sound was brighter and more exciting when Mr. Fujishige stood in front of the band. The performance left me a deep impression for JBC this year.
On the second night, the Sendai Municipal Koyodai Elementary School Sunflower Symphonic Band produced a heartwarming and touching performance. Their program embodied their local culture and identity with the first two pieces related to their well-known local festivals and the last two pieces representing their prayers for the restoration of Tohoku area which suffered from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The band, being located in Tohoku itself had to stop their activities after the earthquake for a long period of time. I thoroughly enjoyed their performance from the technical point of view, but was more impressed by their hearty messages through music.
In the very same night, the Senzoku Grakuen College of Music White-Tie Wind Ensemble conducted by Mr. Jerry Junkin showed exactly what music college band should be from the viewpoint of the performance standard and repertory. A Norwegian tubist, Eirik Gjerdevik, performed as a soloist with Senzoku Band, entertaining the attendees with his marvelous performances and even leading to several enthusiastic curtain calls.
Meeting with people had always been a subsidiary attraction of the JBC. The reception for attendees took place every night at the event hall, with thousand of band people exchanging cups (and sometimes business cards), drink and eat together. Band directors, who are usually school teachers in their main profession, talked about their worries with each other.
The JBC was also attended by many popular composers such as Yo Goto, Satoshi Yagisawa, Daisuke Shimizu, Yoshio Nakahashi, Daisuke Ehara, Takamasa Sakai, Masaki Itani, Naoya Wada, Tohru Minakuchi and Yoshihiro Zama. They often interacted with some band director attendees whenever possible on the interpretation of their works at the exhibition booths. Moreover, these composers were also willing to take photos with the attendees – I believe their works must have motivated the teachers and their students a lot.
The 47th Japan Band Clinic will be held on from 20 to 22 May 2016. The JBC had developed a lot over the years and recently, the committee had decided to have more foreign attendees. With more details to be announced in December, I look forward to another fruitful three days in Hamamatsu meeting more band people there!