Student Group - Excellent Work (Japan)
Have the Courage to Take A Step Outside
Kento Ogata [Age 18, Senior, Music Course, High School Division, Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired, University of Tsukuba, male]
“I want to form a band”. This was the dream I constantly embraced when I was a ninth grader of a school for the blind in Fukuoka. This, however, was not to be realized under the circumstances where none of my fellow students played a musical instrument, and what with 3 students at the most are enrolled in a single grade.
Then, suddenly, this stopped clock began to tick. It was at the moment I received a call from my mother informing me that I was accepted as a drum major into the Music Course of the High School Division at the Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired at the University of Tsukuba on the day before the graduation ceremony. I have since then been awaiting the day of the entrance ceremony, thinking that “I’ll be able to form a band once I reach Tokyo”.
Came the following April, and my life in Tokyo started. I intended to take my time in looking for band members while getting used to the new life, but it turned out that there were already several bands in the school. Efforts to find members for a new band failed, so I ended up giving up the whole idea.
Alternatively, I absorbed myself in sports activities and spent the days concentrating on them, completely forgetting about the band for some time. I became accustomed to my new life, and as I was about to go on to my junior year of high school I resumed an even stronger desire to form a band.
This time around I decided to look for its members on the internet. I did not have any reservations at the time in mingling with grownups or forming a band with strangers outside of the school. My only concern was whether any band would accept a visually challenge member.
I searched by typing in the keyword “drum player wanted” on sites recruiting band members. There were several bands which caught my attention. Then the screen reader read out a part of what seemed like an interesting ad. It said, “wanted: someone who can play the drums to a certain extent, irrespective of age and gender, we are a band with members who simply enjoy playing whatever we like”. My finger pressed the Enter key instantly.
Matters developed at a fast pace as I contacted K who was the leader of the band, exchanged e-mail addresses with him, and agreed to meet few days later at a train station near the school. A week later, the day came for me to meet K. I excitedly waited for him at the meeting place. Yet I was anxiously wondering all the while what I would do if I were rejected as soon as I told him about my disadvantage. We soon met and talked about our favorite genres and artists, past musical experiences and so on at a nearby fast food restaurant as an introductory step toward my participation. K was a very pleasant and approachable person whom I immediately found out has a taste and ideals in music compatible with mine.
As my participation became nearly finalized, I braced myself and confided in K about my disability. K said “really?” and seemed puzzled at first, but soon resumed his smile and listened intently about my condition. It came naturally to me to tell him that I have difficulty seeing at night, have a problem identifying someone’s face and because of that I might unknowingly give an unpleasant impression.
I went to the studio days later on the day which the entire band was to gather. All of the members were working grownups, but cheerful and friendly all the same just like K. The 2 hours of practice session of playing a prearranged number went by in a blink of time. I was officially accepted into the band during the discussion on future activities held after the session. What encouraged me the most was that not only were every one of the members compassionate about my disadvantage, but they went as far as to say, “we will do everything we can to assist you”. I realized that my concerns were totally groundless.
I might even call this chance meeting with those with whom I can share the same dream was made possible by exerting just a little bit of courage, a miracle. I now have confidence in myself and my drumming ability, thanks to this precious and wonderful encounter.
Currently our band practices at a pace of twice a month in preparation for a live performance which has been our goal right from the beginning. Now I bear a new dream of succeeding as a professional drummer in the future. I may come across people who are not as understanding of my disability along the way. But I believe that their understanding will be attained by stepping up and enhancing my skills.
Does anyone out there want to form a band, but not quite know how, like me? My advice to you is to have the courage to take one step outside. I say this because I’d like for you to realize, as I did, that no barrier will stand in the way if you have a common interest with others to enjoy together.
I will continue to appreciate the band activity with K and other members, while at the same time enriching my own musical interests. The band lets me be myself and has become an indispensable purpose in life beyond the difference between the able-bodied and the disabled.