Harmonisch Blasorchester Hawai`i is a instrumental ensemble that is organized under the Tenrikyo Paradise Church. This ensemble, or band, is organized to service the community both musically and through other volunteer efforts.
"Harmonisch" is a German word meaning "Harmonious."
"Blasorchester" is another German word that refers to a wind ensemble or band.
The philosophy of the band is in its name. To create a band that is harmonious in both sound and fellowship. Also to spread this harmonious feeling towards our audience and community.
The band is open to anyone who is able to play a musical instrument, read sheet music, and is willing to perform community service.
After spending many years in Japan, and working with and performing with various community bands, it became very apparent how competitive these bands are, and not always in a very healthy way. I eventually came across one in Aichi prefecture, Koseto Brasswood Band in the town of Koseto. They had more performances than any other band, but also the most wide range of talent and ability. Whereas the other community bands had very impressive but few performances in the year, this band in Aichi covered that same amount of performances that the other competitive bands were doing, but only in a couple of months. The reason for this is that their concerts are all community-based, where as the other community bands did Spring, Summer, Fall (rarely), and Winter concerts with a competition somewhere in there, all in auditoriums. It was technically open for the community, but really focused on themselves. This Koseto band, however, did retirement homes, train station grand openings, store openings, summer festivals, birthday parties, you name it. Another band that I enjoyed playing with was in the city I was staying at, Tenrikyo Institute of Music Wind Band, was made up of alumni and community members of the Tenrikyo High Schools and surrounding area. They also had the same philosophy, but the level of musicianship was higher.
Upon returning to Hawai`i, I wanted to begin an orchestra or band with this same concept, and when it came to naming, I couldn’t come to name it “Concert Band” or “Wind Ensemble” or anything near that because sometimes the name comes with baggage, and I wanted to be clear that this band was for the community, and anyone who can read music can join, without fear of being judged on your ability on the instrument. The main purpose is to bring happiness to the audience we’re performing for, also to have fun and build friendships with each other. Thus it was suggested to name it in a foreign language, so we chose Harmonisch Blasorchester Hawai`i. We chose this name because German words are inherently fun to try to pronounce, also, it becomes our philosophy in one phrase.
Keeping in mind the various community bands in Japan that I've experience, and also looking at the structure of the two bands that I enjoyed playing in, I decided that the band members would decide the music and venue, and the music director would direct music, and music only. This is so that the band members can explore what their interests are, and also keep their band busy (within reason) to their desire. This addresses complainers about band because everyone is a contributor. So if they are complaining, that means they are NOT contributing, because all members are free to find music and places to perform, and the entire membership can decide. It’s not perfect, but it is the idea of our name “harmonious.”
Our band is still very small, which is fine, but I thought, when I started the band, that there would be people who would want to do community service and make retirees in homes, hospital patients, families happy by doing this service with music, because I thought we all learned that music is a thing to be shared. but I was surprised by how many people—and these are actually what they said—would rather:
- play challenging music and be competitive, not play songs just because it make the retirement people happy (Once, when we played the beautiful Ticheli “Amazing Grace” the audience didn’t like it because they wanted to sing along, so we changed to a beginning /intermediate band arrangement in the next performance and the audience loved it. But, we had a few members quit).
- get paid than doing community service (these are NOT professional musicians we are talking about),
- play with a well-established band to meet their own needs, not play in a band that a few people can’t play their instrument perfectly.
- not want to waste time having fun and building camaraderie with their fellow band members, but only have serious practice sessions (I mean we will practice, but we have fun talking too).
- have a band that planned out its performances/have more performances (Again, we reiterate that these things are planned by the membership, which includes everyone. Most of the people that had this complaint, really did not help, or said that they were too busy to help, which all of our members are working or schooling people who are just as busy. It is perfectly fine if you are unable to help, but not okay to scold the ones that are trying. If you know better, show the way).
So I’ve had a nice handful of members who love performing, and are at different levels of ability, and have supplemented with our high school students who also like doing community service. We try to have one performance a month, and try to have fun doing so, so that our audience will have fun listening as well. After all, that's what harmonious is, I think.
- D. Kenji Akemoto, co-founder of HBH, and his explanation of how HBH was established.
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