Changing Seasons

Ken Miyazawa
Shirahama Middle School


One year ago, I transferred to Shirahama Junior High School. Since I came in the middle of the year, I was not a member of any club activities. I didn t want to join anything, because I felt I wasn t suited for any clubs. But my teachers and classmates encouraged me to try, so, reluctantly, I joined the Brass Band.

At first, I couldn t even read sheet music, and I was scolded constantly for not keeping a good rhythm. I was so bad that I was forced to practice with a metronome everyday. Imagine listening to the same  tick-tock sound for hours on end! It was super boring, but little by little, I began to get better and realized that banging on drums after school was actually a lot of fun. I could make as much noise as I wanted to, without the teachers getting mad at me! It was great!

I finally felt like a true part of the team, and looked forward to practice after school everyday. Later, practice became more intense, as we were preparing for the Chiba Prefectural competition in July. 36 other schools would be there, and we wanted to do our best. In order to prepare sufficiently, we were practicing twice a day. Additionally, because of power saving, we couldn t use the AC, so the music room felt like an oven. But we did our best every day.

We chose as our musical piece a collage of folk songs of the Tohoku area, which as you know, suffered a terrible disaster last March. We chose this piece because it represents the seasons of Tohoku, and the message that spring will come once again. The last sound in the song is a big, loud gong  the same used at a temple. With this final sound, we offered up a prayer for the victims. We decided to dedicate this performance to them, and this was good motivation for us as we practiced.

Finally, the morning of the competition had arrived. I was so nervous I had barely slept the night before. In fact, I arrived at school in the morning having forgotten everything at home  including my lunch! At this rate, I was going to be a nervous wreck by the performance time. I needed to calm down.

After we arrived at the competition hall, I noticed that with only 12 students Shirahama was the smallest group there. Still, we set up confidently, and then it was time to perform. Our performance seemed so long and so short at the same time, but I focused on keeping the correct rhythm. Just when I thought I had it, I looked up and made direct eye contact with my music teacher. Suddenly, I lost my place and missed a note! It seemed like time had stopped, and, just as quickly, the performance was over.

I knew I had made a mistake, and if we lost, it would be my fault. I wanted to kick myself for letting my nerves get the better of me, but that wouldn t fix my mistake, anyway.

0As the judges announced the schools, Shirahama s name drew closer and closer. Finally, our name was called. The judges paused for what seemed like an eternity. I couldn t breathe. Then, the world  GOLD, broke through the silence. It was unbelievable! Everyone on the team stood up and cheered. All the girls were crying. I was so happy that I held my hands up and yelled  YATTA!!! I was so proud of my team. All of our hard work had finally paid off.

I couldn t believe how different things were for me. In less than one year at a new school, I went from not being able to read sheet music to being part of a gold-medal team. This gave me more confidence in myself, and I m not so afraid to try new things anymore. Also, in the midst of my celebration, I remembered our song s theme. We practiced hard everyday and did our best for the people of Tohoku, and our gold medal was for them. In some small way, I hoped this was a sign that spring will, in fact, come again for them someday, too.

Last August, I went to Tohoku as part of a volunteer group. The devastation to the area was unimaginable, and while I was busy loading supplies for the victims, I was moved by their hardship. I was glad that I could help the people of Tohoku in a more personal way and show them that the gold medal wasn t the only thing I had to offer.

(1-27 Speech in 63rd Contest, 2011)

(C)JNSA FUND/the Yomiuri Shimbun

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