Members of the seventh and eighth grade chorus had a big challenge in front of them – not only learning a new song – learning a new song in Japanese. But after more than five weeks of practice, the students were confident enough to perform the Japanese folk song "Akatonbo" in a mini concert in the main hallway to honor of Asian and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month in May.
Chorus teacher Marie Williams had faith that her students would have no problem learning a song in a foreign language. “I chose this song in the beginning of the year because it is a partner song (two separate melodies that are sung together to create harmony), which is typically easily attainable,” Williams said. “I wanted something that the students would be able to quickly achieve, yet also be challenged. The challenge was the language. We sang the melody first using "loo", and we would speak the words often in rhythmic time, then we married the two together. “
The students practiced the song during chorus as well as their WIN period several times a week.
Eighth grader Hayley Mueller said learning the Japanese folk song was easier than she had imagined. “The pronunciation was a little hard to learn but we could recognize some of the words right away,” Mueller said. “Learning to sing in another language makes us better singers.”
Mia Plugh, who is fluent in Japanese, grew up hearing “Akatonbo” sung to her by her mother. Plugh, who is also in eighth grade, was happy to help her fellow chorus members work on sounds and words and was thrilled her teacher picked this somewhat challenging song to celebrate Asian and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month.
“Ms. Williams likes to give us a challenge with the songs she picks out for us,” Plugh said. “She likes to challenge us with different languages.”