Band students recount trip to Japan
By Jack Kintner
Much of the Blaine school board’s regular meeting Monday night was given over to a lengthy report on the high school wind ensemble’s trip to Japan last month – the second trip the band has taken in the last five years to the Funabashi Music Festival.
The board heard from several of the 10 adults and six of the 53 students who took the week-long tour, beginning with superintendent Ron Spanjer who, along with his wife, helped chaperone the trip.
“Your superintendent was running around not getting much sleep for the time we were away,” Spanjer said with a smile, obviously having enjoyed himself.
Music teacher and band director Bob Gray said the trip was “well beyond my wildest dreams, and the connections we all made were deep and indelible.” Gray described going to Disneyland Tokyo, “a lot smaller than the one in California,” when it stormed so hard that the band wasn’t able to play.
“They gave us a trophy anyway,” Gray said, “which was nice because few bands who apply to play there are accepted.”
The weather was so severe it stopped the bullet trains, leaving the Blaine band to find alternate transportation back to their Japanese homes, along with hundreds of thousands of stranded Tokyo commuters.
The board watched a seven minute video of the band in concert, playing Prairie Dances by Holsinger, a New Orleans style rendition of the gospel hymn Just a Closer Walk with Thee that included a tap dance by Melissa Galbraith and a pep band song, You Can Call Me Al from Paul Simon’s Graceland album.
After the video Blaine senior Eli Kramme spoke about the number of people crammed into a small space, and talked about playing ping pong as a way of getting to know the students.
Sophomore Michelle Halpin said that “There was always something new to look at. Tokyo is a city that never stops but goes on and on, and that made me appreciate Blaine a lot more. When we came home we all had grown up a little bit more and definitely see the world differently now.”
Junior Cody Burk talked about his host family’s chocolate shop while Spanjer passed out samples to board members.
Junior Curtis Cartier talked about eating Japanese food, including “fish and beef, and a bunch of really odd things.”
Nicholas Cunningham said the hosts provided a man with a truck who carried the heavier instruments that were furnished for the band to their concerts, including such things as tympani and bass drums and tubas.
When asked if they’ll go back again, Gray said “Yes, if we’re invited.”