Fukushima set to accept entries for brass band music composition contest

Photo: Fukushima Mayor Hiroshi Kohata speaks about an inaugural brass band music contest at a press conference.

Fukushima city has been pushing forward with a project to publicize across Japan the achievements of the late great multi-genre music composer Yuji Koseki, a native of the Fukushima Prefecture capital, and grow future generations of talented musicians. The competition named "Yuji Koseki composition contest" was created in the hopes of discovering tunes that have the potential to become "standard" music for brass band performances. Entries will be solicited from May. The panel of judges for the contest will consist of leading composers in Japanese contemporary music circles. The scores entered will be examined by the judges and the top tune is planned to be played widely by students in the city in order to broaden the base of local music culture. A music event timed with the final round of the competition is scheduled for autumn, giving the city an opportunity to hear classy orchestral and brass sounds resonate.  Leading composer Shinichiro Ikebe among judges "We would like to make this project a symbolic initiative to publicize the richness of music culture," Fukushima Mayor Hiroshi Kohata said as he spoke about the inaugural contest at a regular press conference on April 21. According to the city office, it is rare for a local municipality to host a music composition contest in Japan. New brass band music entries will be accepted from across the country between May 9 and Aug. 31. The screening of music scores by the judges will precede an open concert doubling as the final round of competition to be staged at Fukushin Yume no Ongakudo (Fukushima City Concert Hall) on Nov. 27. The winning piece will be selected from among about eight candidates chosen for the final round. The panel of judges will be made up of five members, including Shinichiro Ikebe, a leading contemporary classical music composer. The works of Ikebe, who has received the national honor of a person of cultural merits, include the main theme for public broadcaster NHK's historical drama "Dokuganryu Masamune," featuring medieval warlord Date Masamune, as well as the score for "Kagemusha" (Shadow Warrior), a period film directed by Akira Kurosawa. Like Koga, a prominent figure in music composition in the Showa period (1926-1989), Ikebe is viewed by many as one of the role-model composers of his genre for younger generations. He has been tapped as the chair of the panel and city officials expect his name recognition will help the contest to be known widely and solicit a number of entries. Scheduled to perform at the public concert in November is the Tokyo-based Siena Wind Orchestra, which is considered a top-notch brass-heavy orchestra in Japan. The city is promoting the event so people will enjoy music and harmonies from a first-class professional brass group. The winning composer will receive 500,000 yen along with extra prizes. The contest is sponsored by the city government and organizing committee, with Fukushima-Minpo Co. acting as a special supporter. The "Yell Prize" will be awarded as an honorable mention for a composer viewed as having a notable future potential. It is named after NHK's morning drama series modeled on Koga and carries the title "Yell." Fukushima regularly holds music festivals commemorating Koga in October and November, including one having a pun in its title -- "Fukushima Yousic Fes." The city brings in the contest at the very end of the autumn fiestas. Mayor Kohata said he hopes to "boost the power" of spreading cultural awareness through the contest placed as the "finale" of the autumn events. Naoyuki Miura, general adviser to the city's music and cultural affairs who will oversee the contest, said Fukushima is "resolved to make it a first step for composers to become capable of coming out into the global stage."  City to offer winner's music score to schools Fukushima city is considering providing the winner's score to elementary, secondary and high schools in the city for free. The purpose is to let students know of the music in the hope that it will be played at competitions involving school music bands as well as many other occasions. "It is significant to publicize musical works crafted in relation to Fukushima," said Toshiyuki Abe, a 55-year-old teacher at Noda grade school and adviser to its marching band that has participated in many national-level marching band competitions. "I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of tune will be selected." Takehito Shimazu, a professor emeritus at Fukushima University who has nurtured a number of composers, pins high hopes on new discoveries coming out of the contest. "Younger-generation people are involved more in brass band music than in other genres," said the 72-year-old musician. "A perfect opportunity will be there to find new composers." (Translated by Kyodo News)