Living & Learning: Japanese students overseas / Music gives a place to belong, opportunities to grow

Courtesy of Yutaro Bannai

Yutaro Bannai, right, practices singing with Dr. Gerard Floriano, the director of the Geneseo Chamber Singers.

By Yutaro Bannai (State University of New York at Geneseo)This column features reports by Japanese students currently studying overseas on their lives on and off campus.

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Being fascinated by the freedom of America, where all kinds of opportunities wait on ambition, I chose music, a field I have never exactly belonged to before. I found a poster for auditions for the Geneseo Chamber Singers. No, I had not previously cared for instruments, ensembles and orchestras. I also believed that music requires much knowledge and training from one’s childhood. So, it seemed totally impossible to begin to sing from college — but it turned out I was absolutely wrong. The poster said all interested students, even those who have no experience, are welcome regardless of their major and level. So, I decided to use this opportunity. Indeed, about half the students were novices.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

The next day, I entered a waiting room for the audition and was astonished to see about 50 students there. The director, Dr. Gerard Floriano, asked me to sing the national anthem of America as a requirement! I was so bewildered that I could barely sing neither the lyrics nor the melody, so I thought my audition was over. But how gentle and benevolent he was! He understood I am an international student from Japan and allowed me to sing any songs I could, even Japanese songs. Two days later, I was so excited and pleased: I had passed the audition! Today, even if I am the only international student in the chamber choir and struggle to speak English well, I am one piece in the creation of a beautiful harmony, and not only for English songs, but in German, French, and Italian, too.

We chamber singers tour internationally in every major European city and domestically in New York City, Boston and Chicago. Isn’t this a wonderful way to value the sophisticated development of students? Isn’t it interesting! As soon as I became a part of the Geneseo Chamber Singers, I felt as if I was in a close-knit family and we were tied to one another. I believed that we could communicate through singing without saying a word. Dr. Floriano and my fellows often inspire me to keep singing and discover a priceless heritage through music.

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SUNY Geneseo

Founded in 1871 as Wadsworth Normal and Training School, the State University of New York at Geneseo became a public liberal arts college in 1948. Located in the historic village of Geneseo near Buffalo and Rochester in New York State, the campus is known for its red brick, ivy-covered architecture, and has the only pelletron particle accelerator in western New York.

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