Monday, March 16, 2015

8. Music can change (concert-3)

After the rock sound, a quiet tempo from Masafumi's piano solo cools down the venue.

Akiko takes a breath and a sip of her cold soft drink.

Well, now it's Kazuki's time in the spotlight.

♪ Smells Like teen Spirit (Nirvana) is Toshiaki's favorite. It is a heavy rock song, called grunge.

Kazuki starts, followed by the base and the drums, then the music gets heavy. Kazuki is not yet familiar with the new equipment and is struggling to adjust the sound.

Toshiaki is singing, and adeptly switches the tempo with his toes to help Kazuki.
As the music progresses, Yasunori's drumming intensifies.

Despite their difficulties, the rythm increases as the rock music reaches its apex. The moment they finish, they hear applause. What a thrilling surprise! The entire venue was uplifted. A complete standing ovation for the band.

 Pictures at an Exhibition / Promenade (Emerson Lake & Palmer)
The Pictures at an Exhibition album performed by one of Akiko's favorite progressive rock music groups, ELP, utilizes high performance technology to create this work of art.

Toshiaki carefully and politely sings the lyrics, and the sad tone of the guitar solo dances in the air as Kazuki plays the lower harmony. What a beautiful unity! Akiko was impressed.

Black bird (The Beatles)

Enjoy the expressive vocals of Toshiaki, quietly supported by Yasunori's cajon. Progress has been made steadily with the guitar work of Kazuki. Ah, Akiko was deeply moved.

Kazuki's mother attended the concert and was overjoyed for her son's performance.
Akiko asked her,
"Kazuki has progressed greatly in a short time, hasn't he?"

Kazuki's mother answered with delight,
"I always thought Kazuki wouldn't amount to much. But I have noticed he is changing and becoming more reliable"

The SANKICHI BAND was formed over a year ago. Kazuki started playing guitar at about the same time.

Toshiaki who had been playing base for six years, said.
"Kazuki had to increase the repertoire of music he took on while learning the classical guitar. It is amazing that Kazuki is able to play Emerson, Lake & Palmer in one year's time"
Kazuki has a tremendous talent despite being the one in the band with the most severe problems.

Alas, it is audience participation time for the second half.
They are able to make requests and sing while the band plays. Even without rehearsal, the band members liven up more and more while playing.

The last one of the night,
Lupin The Third '80. Masashi on piano, Takeo on drums, Akiko plays the flute and sings with Toshiaki and Kazuki plays guitar. The whole band had a high quality performance.

Akiko successfully performed in and managed a concert lasting over 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Comments from the delighted audience included:

  • "This is my first concert in this venue. It was a lot of fun"
  • "I wish my withdrawn son was here"
  • "It is very fun to sing along with the band"
  • "It was much better than singing at Karaoke"

Dr. Miyoshi and the Caseworker Mr. Hirose seem to have enjoyed it the most.

Akiko politely said goodbye to each guest. So everything was finally over for the night. She laughed and said,
"Ah, finally I can drink a beer. I'm so hungry!"

"What!? Akiko, you haven't drank yet!?" Everybody was surprised.

After Akiko was given her second cup of beer, Takeo said,
"After you finish that cup, let's go home"

... That's right. It is Akiko's responsibility to help Takeo get home.

"Oh!?" Everybody asks, "Are you leaving already?"

Akiko thought.
Well...all is good. After they finished playing, each of the members said they felt "energetic" and "well."

Exhausted Akiko didn't feel eat and drink enough, and went home with Takeo. (T_T)

7. Akiko's Hardship (concert-2)

Toshiaki played his favorite music "Lupin The Third 80". His rehearsal went very well.

Rehearsal without Kazuki

At the last minute, Kzuki finally showed up.

"Hurry!" Akiko grabbed off Kazuki's coat and bag, helping him get focused and prepared to play his guitar.

He still needed to connect the equipment he recently purchased. With Toshiaki's help, Kazuki completed the sound check.

Now, the time had come for the band members to stand in their positions ready to start. But Kazuki still wasn't ready yet.

After 10 minutes passed, the music therapist Rie said, "We need to start."
But, the cool opening "Senbonzakura" wasn't ready!

Akiko had to buy time, she took a microphone and talked for awhile.

At last, it was ready!


Then, Akiko found that something was not right with Kazuki.

"Stop!" Akiko shouted.

It seems Kazuki's guitar sound wasn't coming out. So, they had to check all the connections, re-adjust and start again.


On her way up to the stage, Akiko had been warming up, and didn't know her singing could be heard. Naturally, her singing measure shifted. Thanks to the drummer Yasunori, who provided a strong beat, Akiko continued singing to the end.

"...Oh, dear, sorry to shift" Akiko thought. However, the audience enjoyed it. Perhaps, they were not familiar with "Hatsune Miku" music "Senbonzakura". Their tempo is fast. If the audience was not used to it, they may not understand what they were singing about. (such as "The Beast")

Anyway...Akiko thought the troubles were over. The director, Dr. Miyoshi, made the opening remarks. Followed by the caseworker from Miyoshi Clinic, Mr. Hirose, introduced the band.

By the way, the MC's were both Mr. Hirose and Akiko. Shockingly, he was already "red-faced" (drunk?)

...Ah...Akiko realized tonight she had to MC by herself for the entire 2 hours.

"Well, Akiko," she thought to herself, "Let's do this!"

Saturday, February 28, 2015

6. Struggling to the last minute (concert-1)

The day has came for the "SANKICHI BAND" concert !

Akiko has worked hard for this day. Preparation wasn't easy, there were many bumps and obstacles along the way.

Audience began to gather at music venue
The Sankichi Band has several members. This is the second concert they are going to perform. Seven of the members are going  to play for the audience.

One of them is Masafumi the pianist. He is a graduate from a music university and Akiko calls him "Chopin of Shonan".

Masafumi had overlapping mental and physical fatigue from his work. He was concerned that he couldn't practice much at rehearsal and said it would be difficult to participate.

Four days before the concert another band member, Takeo, came for rehearsal. But after riding several connecting trains, he didn't feel well. So, he went back home without practicing.

Akiko has been aware of such situations since the members have a variety of illnesses. Even so, she cannot help but worry about whether the concert would be successful or not.....What's a surprise!

Takeo came to the meeting just before the concert. After all, he had been trained as a professional musician. He knew the night was important for all of the members.

On top of that! Masafumi showed up!

Another drummer Yasunori joined in and the last rehearsal began! Akiko checked all the music to be played the night of the concert.

Masafumi got bored and hit Ysunori's Cajón
As the start time approached, Kazuki hadn't come yet. He hasn't even adjusted the equipment that was purchased just a few days before.

"What's he gonna do?" Akiko's apprehension grew.

Another member had to wait for Kazuki to arrive after rehearsal was finished.

The first music is "Senbonsakura"!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

5. Rehearsal Requires Patience

The second concert approached. Akiko showed up early with Rie and Takeo for rehearsal as usual. Toshiaki (bassist) and Kazuki (guitarist) came at 6 PM.


Akiko: "Tonight. We will finish it!"
She was fully motivated.

However, Kazuki was not quite ready yet.

Kazuki: "I'm fixing the strings, and tuning..."

Toshiaki rushed to him.

After a while, they finally finished what they were doing, and both stood at centerstage.

Akiko: "OK, let's begin Senbonzakura"

Kazuki didn't start. Akiko thought "Now what!?"

"You know"
"Which is better this sound or that sound?"
"I wanna use distortion a little bit more..."
"What? Volume is low. Hmm, why?"

Akiko and Rie were getting annoyed.

Akiko: "Hey, what are you doing!?"
Rie: "Workout those details later!"
Akiko: "You should have finished it before 6 o'clock!"

Meanwhile, Takeo is holding his drumsticks in both hands, pitifully on standby .

Finally rehearsal started. But suddenly, Kazuki stopped in the middle of it.

Kazuki: "The interlude, I like this tempo ♪~"

So, Takeo change the tempo.

Kazuki: "Yep, that's it"

Akiko: "Once again! Let's play from the top!"

They finished the first one despite trouble. And Kazuki started playing alone without the others.

Akiko and Rei grew more impatient.

Rie: "Kazuki, do it later!"
Akiko: "We haven't time!"

Now, Toshiaki's turn came to sing. However, Kazuki stopped again.

Kazuki: "I wanna change the tone, I'd like to buy soon" (buy what? Effects Unit?)

Toshiaki: "Buy it"

Kazuki (left) & Toshiaki (right)
Kazuki: "Terrace Mall music store didn't have it"

Toshiaki: "That store doesn't have much selection. You should go to Yokohama"

Kazuki: "Yokohama? Too far away"

Toshiaki: "Go to Machida"

Kazuki: "Too far"

Toshiaki: "If you say that! You couldn't go anywhereeee!"

Ah! Finally, Toshiaki got angry.

In spite of all the difficulties, finally they finished that night's rehearsal.

On the way home, Takeo told Akiko. "I almost snapped out"

The mental illness isn't wisdom delay. Some have outstanding abilities, work seriously, even graduate from university, and should feel some pride, However, due to a lack of communication skills, they have been rejected by others and could have been oppressed. When we are treated with respect, we are more likely to show respect. Helping mentally ill patients to communicate well with each other by complimenting their achievements. In turn, this builds confidence and helps them realize their presence is important in our society.

That is Akikso's challenge with SANKICHI BAND.

Friday, January 16, 2015

4. Rehearsal

Music Venue / Claja
The Sankichi Band has been approached about doing a second live performance. They have rehearsal once a week.

Rie (music therapist), Akiko (music instructor) and Takeo (drummer) arrived early to start practice. Two more members arrived after work with their instruments.

Toshiaki & Kazuki
Toshiaki (left) has been playing the Bass guitar for 6 years. He started playing when he was a student at university, and just recently joined this group . He appeared on stage to perform for the first time in two years. He also shared a very spirited, and challenging vocal as well.

Kazuki (right) started playing the guitar one year go. In the beginning, he practiced the classical guitar 8 hours a day. He still continues to practice the classics along with the Sankich Band music he has now added to his collection.

Toshiaki and Kazuki are about the same age. Toshiaki enjoys helping Kazuki when he is struggling with the guitar.

Takeo (Sneak Shot)

Today, people with mental disorders are not uncommon.
However, they are easily misunderstood. Being labeled lazy or weak because they have difficulties tolerating stress and struggle to hold onto a job.

Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing.

Some are very active and productive in our society. With understanding and support during recovery process, they could be respectable workers and enjoy what they to do. Promoting social and emotional well being improves the quality of life for everyone.

The Sankichi Band provides a place to perform their music and share their talents with their community. This also helps to fulfill a natural human need to know each one of us has a unique purpose in life.

The Band has several members. Even though their physical, mental or emotional conditions, sometimes prevent participation in rehearsal or practice, they have made great progress as a group.

Monday, December 15, 2014

3. Welfare Festival in Japan

Masturi is a Japanese festival. It's a religious event to pray or appreciate the good harvest or health.

Now this festival often includes a large event to provide entertainment and promote unity among the local community.

 Performance by Instructor / Takumi Suzuki (Guitarist) 

The annual "Yugyouji Welfare Masturi" in Fujisawa, Japan has become an event of mental health awareness.

Mochi-tsuki (pounding steamed rice into mochi)

This event provides an opportunity for patients struggling with mental illness and other community members to interact while enjoying local entertainment.

Saru-mawashi (a monkey show)

For this day, patients who suffer from mental illness practice for this event under challenging circumstances from time to time, over several months.

Akiko, an instructor, goes up on stage with the nervous members, and they are able to finish performing. These patients succeed each time their illness or disability does not discourage them from reaching a chosen goal.

Finished singing on stage safely, two performers are extremely relieved. The moment Akiko pointed a camera at them, they say,...

"Quit! It's not good"...but when encouraged, they both raise their faces, completely serious.

After deciding to cooperate, these two became more relaxed. Akiko then suggested they make "fool-faces."

Akiko believes mental illness and tension are synonymous, "because there is not even an occasional loosening in his facial expressions, even when out of treatment."


       " Thank you very much."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

2. Akiko

Akiko is a professional musician, and a volunteer who supports mentally ill patients in Japan.

 It also happens that she is one of the patients.


She conducts music class once a month for 90 minutes. Each class is divided into three sections:

  1. Picked one song up, and lecture about lyricist, composer and contents of the lyrics.
  2. Request. Sing together their favorite songs. (include Kayokyoku and J-pop)
  3. Practice the songs that are chosen to sing up on the stage during the "Welfare Festival" held in the fall each year.

The age range of most of the patients is between 20 - 50. Every patient with a mental disorder has a unique personalty and feelings. Akiko works to support the band and participants as much as possible in spite of her busy schedule.

Workshops such as painting, Japanese calligraphy, music, computer, sports, hiking, karaoke, flower arrangement are offered in this program to enable patients to re-enter society. These workshops are organized on a daily bases, so patients won't become further withdrawn.

Akiko plans to rehearse once a week for the upcoming Welfare Festival in Fujisawa, Japan.

Let's give her cheer! Great progress Akiko!