Music and culture fill journey to Japan

HOWELL — Michael Kaminski completed one of his college graduation requirements and lived a dream all in a span of 18 days.

Kaminski, a resident of Howell, visited Japan through the Global Opportunity (GO) program at Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pa.

Kaminski is a music education major at Susquehanna who specializes in percussion instruments and expects to graduate in 2017. He is a 2013 graduate of Howell High School and the son of Mark Kaminski and Denise Kaminski.

Kaminski and seven other students visited Japan through the “A Window to Japan” experience from May 11-29. The experience was only offered to music students.

Susquehanna requires its students to take part in the GO program in order to graduate. Students take a preparation course, go on a trip and take a reflection course.

Kaminski will take his reflection course in the fall and expects it to involve readings and papers about his experiences.

The first 10 days of the trip included a chamber music residency during which the Susquehanna students worked with students from Niigata University on Sado Island in the Sea of Japan.

Kaminski said he and his fellow students were paired with a Japanese student and worked together with different pieces of music.

On the final day of the residency, the group performed a concert. Kaminski played the xylophone and snare drum.

“Working through the language barrier to have the concert was a tremendous experience,” he said. “We learned about the culture and aesthetics that go into their art. Learning how to apply it to our own playing is incredible.”

Kaminski said he and his fellow students had a chance to visit temples and saunas on Sado Island. They traveled to Tokyo and experienced local food, hot spring baths, museums and accommodations in Japanese inns.

Kaminski said he chose the trip because of his interest in Japanese culture.

“Japan was a place I always wanted to go to,” he said. “This trip was the one that really stood out to me and the one that interested me the most.”

The journey cost $5,000 which included activities, accommodations, airfare and meals. The trip had a prerequisite course about Japan and an audition with the program coordinators was required.

Kaminski spoke about how different Japanese culture is compared to American culture.

“When we first spoke with the professors who led the trip, they asked me if I was going to be out of my comfort zone,” he said. “Some things are in reverse, such as what is valued more than others, but looking back I appreciated seeing things in a different perspective.”

Kaminski said he will never forget the relationships he formed with the Japanese students.

“Working with them was an incredible experience.” he said. “We spent a lot of time together in and out of rehearsals. We had a lot of dinners and shared so much. It was really unforgettable.”

Kaminski expressed interest in returning to Japan, possibly to attend the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

— Peter Elacqua