Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rising Star, Fallen Star

Teachers in public junior high schools here in the Land of the Rising Sun have what seems like an impossible task. They are stuck in often stiflingly bureaucratic institutions that are badly understaffed and underfunded, given a ridiculous workload, and faced with both troublesome students and often even more troublesome parents. Unsurprisingly, many of them either buckle under the pressure or simply try to avoid it by hiding behind a wall of denial and excuses. That quite often means that those teachers that really do care about their work wind up taking care of students above and beyond the call of duty.

So it was when, a number of years ago, my wife found herself looking after a student that was not one of her own, one which had both unique talents and unique problems. The girl, who I shall refer to henceforth as "N", was certainly a difficult case. She was not only spoiled but introverted and antisocial almost to the point of being autistic. Fond of goth fashion, she tended to push the school uniform codes to their limit, and as a result she wound up facing the wrath of unforgiving teen girl conformity. Her isolation led her to withdraw from her classmates and then from the school itself. On one occasion, she apparently tried to withdraw from life. All the while, N's homeroom teacher, who would normally be responsible for her, simply ducked the issue; his way of dealing with N was to declare her a "lost cause" and insult her over the phone on infrequent occasions. As it turned out, however, N had come to trust my wife after having been in her English lessons, so she gave my wife a hesitant plea for help. True to form, my wife wouldn't turn her down.

Dealing with N was never an easy matter, but my wife refused to give up. She did her best to encourage the girl in different ways and finally got her to come back to school. Unfortunately, when N's homeroom teacher got wind of what was going on, he immediately made a case out of it, getting both the grade chief and the principal to order my wife to stop "interfering". My wife, however, was determined not to give up. Her options were now riskier and more limited, so she decided to try something totally different.

N, as it turned out, had considerable talent in different things. She not only played the piano quite well, but was also a gifted singer. She was also fond of writing poetry, of which she had already produced a huge amount. That gave my wife an idea. She asked N to choose (or make) some poems that could be used as song lyrics. These were then turned over to me. Using my home studio, I composed and arranged music for some of the poems and recorded a demo disk which was then given to N. We then suggested that she replace my vocal tracks with her own, essentially making them her songs. We chose a few tunes which we thought were the most doable, I rented a studio in Kashima (so we couldn't be accused of breaking the principal's orders), and we got to work. It was all a totally new experience for N, like something out of a dream, and she was really excited about it. As it turned out, we finished one song and got about halfway done with another when first the homeroom teacher, then conflicting schedules, and finally her graduation became obstacles. N thanked us for our help and went off to Tokyo to start the next chapter in her life.

Fast forward to today.

N had sent letters to my wife at intervals over the years but hadn't given us much in the way of detail. She had said that, inspired by me, she was learning guitar and, against all odds and advice to the contrary, was hoping to do something with her music. Apparently she succeeded. Today we received a copy of her debut CD, a professional, commercial release on an established label. It is seriously awesome. It came together with a letter thanking my wife and me for our help and inspiration.

It's certainly a far, far better thing to see a new star rising into the sky instead of dropping unseen into the abyss. It also feels good knowing that we helped it happen even when others tried to stop us.

How ironic, then, that also today, the very day that I got the CD and thank-you letter from N, I received the tragic news that one of my longtime buddies had suddenly died. That particular friend was the very one that had first introduced me to studio recording. In fact, I could probably say that he's the one that really got my music-making going in the first place back when we were teenagers. Thanks in part to his boost to me, I had the ability to give a boost to N.

I guess it wasn't in vain, after all. Now maybe I can do something with MY music...


  • That is a wonderful story - you and your wife should be very proud of what you did.

    You get this sort of thing (those ducking responsibility and those who try to fill the breach) all over, but it is at school that you can make the biggest difference, IMO, and this is proof of how big that difference can be!

    By Blogger Rock Chef, at 12:46 AM  

  • A beautiful story which illustrates the interconnectedness of all things in our lives. You obviously ARE doing something with YOUR music already. But feel free to do more.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 5:52 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home