Satoru san encouraged me into volunteering in Japan. I met him in 1988. He was a trombonist with the Yokohama Fire Department Band at the time. The US Army Japan Band would sometimes combine with his band and put on a concert. He often took myself and others to see a lot of world famous trombonists in Tokyo when they came through. He is a very good friend and supporter of music education.
After some time, we lost touch with each other because I had moved back to the USA. When moving back to Japan again I was very busy with work and had no time for music. Eight years later when becoming a Smith’s School of English owner, the job allowed me plenty of time to begin practicing again, and I was able to join a local jazz orchestra. https://zamabbjo.jimdofree.com Five years ago we were performing a concert, and to my surprise, Satoru was in the audience. Not having seen or heard from him in 30 years, it was a great moment.
He is well into retirement now, but told me he had been volunteering as a conductor/bandleader for elementary schools in Hadano City, Kanagawa Prefecture. The schools there don’t have much of a budget for music students, so he has been doing this out of the goodness of his heart since he retired. He works with these kids year-round, and every spring they put on a concert for the parents and community. When he asked me a few years ago for a little help, it was an easy “yes.”
The Big Day
The day of the concert is very exciting for these little kids, because it is something they work hard toward throughout the whole year. It begins early in the morning with a final rehearsal, lunch, and the concert in the afternoon. This year’s concert will be held outdoors due to the pandemic. Their discipline is impressive, and the pride in their faces is very touching. Satoru san has dedicated his entire retirement to building a band program and helping these kids, with no pay. I’ll keep helping him and the kids as long as I can. Volunteering in Japan is very rewarding.
An added benefit to reuniting with this old friend is that he joined our group of eight trombones, so we are playing together again regularly. Makes me happy. As you may notice in the photos, there is another American. His name is Bob; my friend and a great trombone teacher. He also enjoys volunteering in Japan. That is another similar story that you can read here if interested- https://sse-franchise.com/old-friends-smiths-japan/. Thank you always for reading.
Mark Smith says
JIm I love this article. It is so very real to me. Friendship, mentorship, and such a powerful and emotive pledge, “I’ll keep helping him and the kids as long as I can”. Thank you for this blog and thank you for your volunteer spirit.
Martin Werner Zander says
Jim, this is a great story. I’m happy you have found so many passions living in Japan, in your work and in your free time.
Thanks Mark, I really enjoy it.
Thank you Martin
Derek Maeckelburg says
Wonderful story Jim. Your friend Satoru is a great role model for us all. Volunteering and giving back to your community is a great thing. I applaud your work as a volunteer. Keep up the great work!
Thanks Derek; I’m happy to have met up with him again after so many years.
Michael Drum says
Really great story. Thanks for sharing it.
Thank you Michael.
This is so good. Well done, Jim.
I like your blog and I haven’t known this story about volunteering!! It’s great!