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Two Decades of Memories

Two Decades of Memories | February 2011

    President Naotaka Fukui of the Musashino Academy in Tokyo doubted whether a concert for my 20th anniversary with the school’s wind ensemble was feasible. We would have to gather enough students to form an ensemble and attract a large enough audience so that the event would pay for itself (one of the school’s requirements). Fukui’s concerns were reasonable, but he underestimated the commitment of the former students who wanted to play under their gray-haired director again.
    Wataru Matoba, the wind ensemble’s manager and a former trumpeter in the band, worked tirelessly with alumni staff to make the concert a success. Beethoven Hall was standing room only for the event, and two long-time faculty commented that they had never seen the hall that full.
    After the concert President Fukui admitted that his worry was needless, and he added that we should begin to plan for a 30th anniversary concert. I smiled and responded that my two new knees should be good until my 80th birthday as long as everything else still works.
    It was a special event and I can now say that I have enjoyed two amazing alumni concerts: at Indiana University in 2005 and at the Musashino Academy of Music in 2010.
– Ray Cramer

    “Play with heart.” Ray E. Cramer often spoke these words to encourage the 640 students he has led in his 20 years as a guest professor with the Musashino Wind Ensemble. In that time he has been involved with other Japanese bands as an honorary advisory board member of the Japan Band Clinic in addition to serving as chair of the Indiana University Band Depart­ment and president of the Midwest Clinic.
    The alumni band consisted of 155 former students with 70 more alumni among the audience. Attendance at three weekend rehearsals was required to perform, so many who wished to play could not. Each piece was performed by a smaller group of alumni who had played the work with Cramer as students, and before each piece he introduced the music and spoke of his memories of Musashino. Many were concerned that the three rehearsals were not enough, but that proved wrong.
    The concert started with Washington Grays March, the piece that opened Cramer’s first performance with the ensemble. The band played with the same excitement and heart in its sound as it did 20 years ago.
    When introducing Grainger’s Irish Tune from County Derry, Cramer explained that the piece has great personal significance because his wife Molly has Irish roots and the beautiful horn melodies remind him of his daughter who played horn. She died in a traffic accident the year before while Cramer was at Musashino preparing for a tour. There was a moment of silence for her following the deeply emotional performance.
    After the main program all 155 participants performed a few encores, including The Stars and Stripes Forever. As an unusual touch, the solo piccolo part was played once by harpist Kyoko Okuda, once by Yomiuri Symphony Orchestra principal trombonist Akira Kuwata, and a final time by four piccolos.
    Cramer received the enthusiastic applause of the audience and the performers on stage, and at the end he thanked his wife Molly for her support and delicate care for all of the students. Molly also received warm applause. The emotional event demonstrated the wonderful relationship between a teacher and his former students.              

– Shigefumi Akita, Professor
Musashino Academia Musicae