• Yuriko Yagisawa

Children in Japan #2 - Komagane Children's Orchestra

El Sistema Japan was established in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, with the aim of helping children in the stricken area and "to foster the will to live through music."


“While undertaking the process of forming and organizing children’s orchestras and a choral group in Soma and Otsuchi, we found that music allowed the children to grow and improve, not only themselves but also have a similar impact on older people and the community. This impact led us to realize that the need for music and its power, is not just limited to earthquake-affected areas. Children, in rural regions far away from cities, had limited opportunities to take up and enjoy artistic pursuits.”

This realization led us to form the Komagane Children’s Orchestra.


The city of Komagane, Nagano Prefecture, has been actively working on global community development by serving as a training location for JICA’s Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and they will further their international cooperation by hosting the Venezuelan team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.


As El Sistema originally started in Venezuela, this connection has resulted in a cooperation agreement between El Sistema Japan and Komagane City. In 2017, we launched a project to nurture life skills through music.

Nagano Prefecture is the birthplace of the Suzuki Method, developed by the noted violinist and pedagogue, Shinichi Suzuki, who was based in Matsumoto. Komagane, however, does not have a tradition of string instruments serving as a regional cultural asset.


The Komagane Children’s Orchestra aims to be a new chapter in the city’s musical history. The Orchestra, currently in its third year, has seen increasing numbers of participants every year, with more than a hundred children playing various string instruments.


At the Komagane Children's Music Festival, held on December 7, the Orchestra showcased their talents and hard work. The performers have been a part of the programme since its inception and are currently in their third year as participants. They performed the first movement of Mozart’s Aine Kleine Nachtmusik.


In the last three years, the Orchestra members have had the opportunity to participate in a practice in Soma and perform in Tokyo at the 2018 El Sistema Gala Concert with older and experienced players from both Soma and Otsuchi, who have taken on the roles of big brothers and sisters and guided them. They’ve also had the privilege of being invited to perform with the Ina Philharmonic Orchestra, in the neighboring city of Ina.


The children will perform Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, this time. Since the piece is quite advanced, they will perform a simplified version of the 4th movement. The piece is 25 minutes and nonetheless poses a big challenge as they have never performed a piece of such a duration, as well as with a large group of 300 orchestra players and chorus.

Geographical issues tend to make it difficult for the entire orchestra to come together at a single location to practice together. Performing on the big stage, which is very different from rehearsals in Komagane, will be another challenge for them and for us.



Also, those who are not yet ready to perform Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 will undertake a performance of Pachelbel’s Canon in Tokyo.


A parent of an orchestra member said that the children have been looking forward to playing Pachebel’s Canon since the last year and the prospect of performing this piece in Tokyo has greatly motivated them.

We are sure that they will continue working hard for the World Children’s Music Festival 2020 in Tokyo and that on stage, they will be able to reach out, through music, to children from all over Japan and the rest of the world.


With the Komagane Children’s Music Festival done and dusted, the Orchestra has a new goal for 2020: the World Children’s Music Festival, which will give them an opportunity to perform in front of peers from across the globe, and represent Japan.

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