July 22, 2017

A Day in a High School Life

One of the big breakthroughs for Tomoko was her experience at Ferris Academy, a music-rich private junior high and high school in Yokohama. She auditioned to be accepted, and was highly regarded for her musical ability.

Imagine Tomoko as she experienced a day in Ferris.

Before daybreak Tomoko would fold up her futon, slip on her school uniform, and fix her breakfast. Tomoko liked the early morning hours. She felt fresh and ready to start the day, and the train was slightly less crowded at that time in the morning. 
When she arrived, Tomoko would admire the gothic looking school building with its pointed-arch windows and buttresses. Even though it was relatively modern, constructed after the 1923 earthquake, it looked formidable and old, maybe because of its dark slate like stone walls. In reality, Ferris really was relatively old: started in 1870, it was the first mission-sponsored school in Japan and the first higher education institution for females.
             Tomoko would enter the practice room long before school was to start. She would pull out her music, warm up with musical exercises, and settle down to practice in peaceful solitude. This was the best time to play; Tomoko didn’t have to worry about waking up the family or the neighbors, and as she moved her fingers deftly across the keyboard she also quickened her mind. By the time the morning school bell rang for assembly. Tomoko would mentally ready to learn.
Assembly time often included singing. The girls’ voices, which were already good, sounded even better with that room’s natural sound effect. Tomoko’s mezzo-soprano voice was well suited to the range of most hymns sung at school, so she could relax and sing freely. Sometimes the sensation reminded her of her mother singing hymns around the house as she cleaned. 
The school curriculum included physical education, including rhythmic gymnastics. Tomoko enjoyed it, not only because it was usually done to music, but because it was graceful. It combined creativity with discipline, which challenged Tomoko in a positive way.
Musis was a priority of Ferris, and it showcased Tomoko’s native talent. Not long after entering Ferris, Tomoko was asked by her teacher, “Would  you accompany the school’s chorus?” Although the teachers knew how to play, they were busy teaching and conducting the singing groups. On her part, Tomoko hadn’t been trained in this task before, but she eagerly agreed. It validated her expertise, and gave her status among her peers. 
On the other hand, English was hard for Tomoko. She practiced it with her classmates as part of recitation, but it wasn't spoken around the house. Yet Tomoko knew that English was important because it helped her get around since the United States started occupying Japan. It should also be noted that since the school was founded by American missionaries, such of the curriculum already reflected American values. For example, students were encouraged to think for themselves, and to make individual contributions to improve the community, which philosophy was not lost on Tomoko.  
Furthermore, Tokomo knew that English -- and music -- would help her leave Japan. She could see the Yokohama harbor from school, and said to herself: I will play the piano in America some day." 
And so she did.