Bringing RBC to Japan

Stephen Maddock, CBSO Conductor Kazuki Yamada and RBC Head of Woodwind Jenni Phillips

Dear friends, colleagues and students,

For the last ten days, I have been in Tokyo, visiting a number of music schools and colleges and generally capitalising on the presence of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) in Japan with their new conductor Kazuki Yamada. This means that a number of RBC teaching staff are here at the same time, and our Head of Woodwind Jenni Phillips has also joined me on the trip.

RBC has some long-standing partnerships in Japan and we wanted to strengthen and refresh these, as well as raise the profile of the Conservatoire within Japan’s musical circles.

On Monday, we visited Kazuki’s alma mater, the University of the Arts, where he and I gave a joint lecture on Birmingham’s musical life, and the distinctiveness of RBC’s offer.

On Tuesday, we visited Tokyo College of Music (TCM), where we met two exchange students: RBC composer Miranda Raffo, who is coming to the end of her time at TCM, and violinist Kota Tamura, who joins us in September for half a year.

We also heard one of TCM’s excellent saxophonists – a Ukrainian who was at school with one of RBC’s bassoonists – the musical world is often very small!

We went to the British School Tokyo on Wednesday and met a number of their music staff. They are about to open a new campus with excellent music facilities in a fast-growing part of Tokyo.

On Thursday, we had a joint trip with CBSO colleagues – arranged by the British Council – to Kokugakuin Kugayama School, where a CBSO ensemble played a short, entertaining concert presented by RBC Head of Percussion Toby Kearney. At the end we were treated to a beautiful ‘thank you’ from three students playing Koto – a many-stringed Japanese traditional form of the harp.

Finally on Friday, it was the turn of Tokyo’s most famous music school, Toho Gakuen, whose alumni include conductor Seiji Ozawa, classical violist Nobuko Imai and classical violinist Akiko Suwanai. There we enjoyed another CBSO ensemble concert and met with senior staff.

Alongside these visits, Jenni and I also attended the British Embassy’s Garden Party to celebrate HM The King’s Official Birthday, and attended a number of the CBSO’s concerts in Suntory Hall and elsewhere. I also managed to take in a couple of other concerts, as well as some additional meetings with music teachers and agents here.

Overall, it has been a really worthwhile experience – and as always in Japan, the food and the welcome were magnificent!

Stephen Maddock
RBC Principal

Pictured: (l-r) Stephen Maddock, CBSO Conductor Kazuki Yamada and RBC Head of Woodwind Jenni Phillips.

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