The Blaine High School Wind Ensemble performed at the 2013 Funabashi Music Festival February 5-15 in Funabashi, Japan, which is located just outside of Tokyo to the east.
The festival showcases student musicians and each year one guest band from outside Japan is invited to play. This year was Blaine’s fourth trip to Funabashi.
“The whole trip from start to finish was a highlight,” said band director Bob Gray.
The students were able to experience Japanese culture through homestays with host families and museums and sightseeing tours were included in a full itinerary.
“We performed six times over the course of the trip,” Gray said. “Most of the performances were with other schools, so we got to meet and play with other performers and directors.”
Musical pieces were previously exchanged to allow both bands to learn the music before practicing and performing together.
Blaine students stayed with host families in pairs or trios for the duration of the 10-day trip, interacting daily with Japanese parents and kids. Gray described the host families as being very gracious to their American guests, with one mother skipping work to care for a student who had got the flu.
“Aside from the one kid getting the flu, we didn’t have any problems,” Gray said.
Forty-four students took part along with nine chaperones, including Dorita Gray, who coordinated the fund-raising efforts. Fund-raising for the trip was a year-long process, and took many forms. Gray said the cost was a little over $3,000 per student.
On the last day, the BHS Wind Ensemble spent the day at an elementary school playing music and learning what a day at a Japanese school was like. Gray said his cheeks hurt from smiling at images such as 6’3” Blaine football center Jon Fakkema being led by two Japanese second graders to sit cross-legged and learn origami.