With the Power of Music,
Let All Children Spread Their Wings Toward the Future
The Friends of El Sistema Japan was founded in 2012 to support the children affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, which severely hit the communities of northeastern Japan in March 2011. We are committed to developing life skills in children “through music” to help them overcome the post-disaster challenges and realize their full potential as a vital member of society. Since our signing of the cooperation agreement with the local government of Soma City in 2012 and then with Otsuchi City in 2014, we have been providing free instruments and music education to all children who wish to join our program, regardless of his or her family background, disabilities and/or nationality.
The Soma Children’s Orchestra & Chorus was launched in 2013 with a modest number of children. It has gradually expanded and is now a proud big family of over 110 members. Participating in an orchestra or chorus resembles building a community with peers, where everybody has a role to play and resonate with one another toward the shared goal of creating beautiful harmonies. The children learn discipline by practicing music in a group setting, while also building friendship and gaining communication and life skills.
In Soma City, we also support a school-based program for a total of 2000 students by organizing music appreciation classes, providing guidance to the school drum and fife bands, etc. In Otsuchi City, where we initiated our project more recently, over 50 children are learning string and percussion instruments both in and outside the public school system.
We have entered a new phase in 2017 launching two new programs in Komagane City and Tokyo, which enabled us to approach children in a wider range of needs.
In 2017, the first project in non-earthquake-affected area began in Komagane City, Nagano. We support children in rural area experience rich and quality music education on a daily basis. On marking the third year, our third base sees unique development with 100 children enjoying strings ensembles and the opportunity of making music together with local musicians.
Music as a means to develop life skills is necessary to all children. Especially children in a distant area from prefectural capital, have less opportunity to join and experience culture and arts. Komagane Children’s Orchestra & Chorus has seen a growing number of local children interested in joining since its foundation.
Tokyo White Hands Chorus (TWHC) was launched to create a community where any children can pursue and share the joy of self-expression and communication through music. On its foundation in 2017, children with hearing loss and impairment were the first members. They sing with sign expressions, which they create with an open and active discussion to deepen and share understandings on lyrics. In 2018, we welcomed children with vision loss and impairment as a chorus group. Limited opportunities are provided for children with disabilities to experience fine arts. We believe TWHC shall encourage children with / without disability to grow mutual understanding and compassion in an inclusive and diverse society.
Singing and playing instruments together with peers brings great joy to the children. They perform at community gatherings, the annual Children’s Music Festival and other occasions – sometimes with the other El Sistema-inspired youth orchestras from overseas and the musicians of international fame. These experiences do not only encourage the children’s musical talent but also help them express themselves through music, gain self-esteem and build solidarity with others.
The Friends of El Sistema Japan will make every endeavor to deliver long-term, seamless assistance to children and families in the affected communities. Your continued support will be greatly appreciated.