By Edna Ethington
The Kyoto Tachibana High School Green Band is one of the oldest marching bands in Japan and is known for their continuous dance-style marching technique that was pioneered at Kyoto Tachibana. This year’s Kyoto Tachibana Green Band came with 191 students and graduates, including 10 boys and 181 women and girls. They came to perform in a Disneyland Parade in Anaheim on Dec. 29, 2017, a Band Festival in Pasadena on Dec. 30, the Rose Parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1, and a Benefit Concert at the Anaheim Union High School District Performing Arts Center at John F. Kennedy High School in La Palma on Jan. 2, 2018. This was the second time that the Kyoto Tachibana Green Band came to perform at the Rose Parade and the Benefit Concert at Kennedy High School with their first time being in 2012.
According to Henri Soucy, a John F. Kennedy High School Band Booster Alumni parent since 1995, this was the largest group of Green Band members to come to perform because graduates also came to honor their Director, Hiroyuki Tanaka, who is retiring as Band Director at Kyoto Tachibana High School after 22 years as Band Director. Mr. Hisashi Hiramatsu, who is 83 years old, was the first Band Director at Kyoto Tachibana in 1963. He also came with the Green Band and planned to be a guest conductor at the concert at Kennedy High School. He also walked the entire length of the Rose Parade of 5.5 miles with the Kyoto Tachibana Green Band.
Since there were so many students and graduates coming to perform, Henri Soucy asked for the help of many host families to house them for parts of three days and two nights from Dec. 30 to Jan. 2. Soucy was grateful for the 82 families who volunteered to take two, three or four students and provide food, lodging and be, like mothers, fathers, or grandparents, for their students. Host families provided many different experiences as students told them what they wanted to see or do. Activities included going on shopping trips, taking visits to the ocean or the Long Beach Aquarium, and showing them the Hollywood sign and other areas of Los Angeles. Some hosts also took their guests to restaurants to try different ethnic foods, or provided American style breakfasts, lunches or dinners and played card games in the evening. Some hosts even took their students ice skating or to an art museum at their request.
The culmination of the Tachibana High School Green Band’s visit occurred on Jan. 2 with awards being presented to thank and honor their directors, current Director Hiroyuki Tanaka, and founding Director Hisashi Hiramatsu. Both directors received John F. Kennedy High School lettermen’s jackets embroidered with their names and the Kennedy “K.” They also received blankets embroidered with the band’s Rose Parade picture. Flute player Hitomi Kanamuru, who wears a prosthesis on her left leg, was recognized for her hard work and determination to be part of the Green Band performances in spite of her handicap. She also received a blanket embroidered with the photo of the Tachibana Green Band at the Rose Parade.
The Kyoto Tachibana Breen Band directors reciprocated by presenting Kyoto Tachibana Green Band jackets to Henri Soucy and Robert Anthony, past director of the Kennedy High School band. The Tachibana Green Band directors also presented Japanese towels and Japanese candies. John F. Kennedy High School Band Boosters also presented a plaque to retiring Director Tanaka.
After all the presentations were made, all the students and dignitaries went outside the Band Room area to participate in the planting of a Friendship Tree to commemorate the friendship of the Kyoto Tachibana High School Green Band and John F. Kennedy High School. Henri prepared a Cypress Juniper Blue Point tree for planting, and the two Japanese directors and selected students helped to finish the job.
The final event of the day was the Green Band Festival in the evening of Jan. 2. The Performing Arts Center was filled with over 700 people as they came to enjoy the band’s concert. The Tachibana Green Band members were spectacular as they performed a “Stage Marching Show” led by Drum Major Yui Nagao. Director Tanaka conducted five different Medleys and melodies, and guest Director Hiramatsu conducted the band playing the music for “Prayer.” Former Kennedy Band Director Robert Anthony conducted the finale, “Stars and Stripes Forever” after the students had come out into the audience to say their emotional farewells to their hosts. The audience applauded the band’s outstanding performance, and everyone stood up from their seats hoping for an encore performance. The band responded by playing its signature Tachibana Green Band number to even more applause from the audience.
The Green Band Association was organized to perform charity concerts worldwide with the proceeds from the concerts donated to benefit environmental causes, including victims of natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, etc. Green Bands have performed in Southern California, Florida, and even Paris, France. Over 1,800 students from different high schools in Japan have performed in Pasadena’s Rose Parade since 2007, as part of a Green Band, including this year’s Kyoto Tachibana Green Band.
We were pleased to learn from Henri Soucy that donations received at this year’s Green Band Festival at Kennedy raised $3,000. The donations will be given to the family of Corey Iverson, the firefighter who died while battling the Thomas Fire last year.
This was the fourth time that my husband, David, and I have hosted Green Band students from Japan. We always have enjoyed hosting the students who are always very polite and appreciative of being able to come and learn more about life in the United States. We also learn from the students about Japan and are always impressed by the Green Band’s musical performance in the Rose Parade and at the Benefit Concert at the Performing Arts Center at Kennedy High School. Host families are the first people to receive tickets for the next Benefit Concert, so we do encourage people to volunteer as host families.
For those who want to see this year’s Kyoto Tachibana High School Green Band performances, use Youtube links at https://www.youtube.com and search for Disneyland Parade-December 29, 2017, Band Festival-December 30, 2017, Rose Parade-January 1, 2018, and Benefit Concert-January 2, 2018.
If anyone would like to host the next Green Band students from the All-Izumo Honor Green Band from four high schools in Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture, please contact Henri Soucy at email@example.com.