In the last thirteen years, the Carthage Wind Orchestra has had the opportunity to tour and perform in Japan in January on five separate occasions. This year the ensemble performed at multiple venues including Hinodeminami Elementary School, in Tokyo; Kurashiki Sakuyo University, in Kurashiki; Hiroshima University, in Hiroshima; and Sakura Theater at the Marine Corps Base, in Iwakuni. I was able to interview one of the members of the ensemble, Laura Smith ’19, the day after the ensemble returned from the tour and ask her questions about her experience.

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Playing, Traveling, and Exploring in Japan with Laura Smith ‘19

  • Laura Smith '19
    Laura Smith '19

By Madison Kobe ‘18

February 01, 2017

In the last thirteen years, the Carthage Wind Orchestra has had the opportunity to tour and perform in Japan in January on five separate occasions. This year the ensemble performed at multiple venues including Hinodeminami Elementary School, in Tokyo; Kurashiki Sakuyo University, in Kurashiki; Hiroshima University, in Hiroshima; and Sakura Theater at the Marine Corps Base, in Iwakuni. I was able to interview one of the members of the ensemble, Laura Smith ’19, the day after the ensemble returned from the tour and ask her questions about her experience.

What is your major?

I have a double major in Vocal Performance and Social Work.

What year are you?

I am a sophomore.

How long have you been involved in music?

Pretty much since I was five years old.

What drew you to music in the first place?

When I was in elementary school, we would have a little Christmas pageant where all the kids would sing, and apparently I was one of the loudest people every year. So I guess that’s where it all started.

What classes did you have to take to prepare for the tour?

We had a morning class from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. where we talked about Japanese culture and history, and learned a little bit about the language. And then we had rehearsals as an ensemble from 1-4 p.m.

How were rehearsals for the pieces you will be performing on the tour different from concert rehearsals?

Well, it was a three hour rehearsal, so it was essentially just about three classes. And the music, at least for me, was harder this term than in the years past. We had several pieces that were very challenging but were also so great. Two of the pieces we did were “Black Dog,” based on the song by John Lennon, and another one was broken into two movements, “Penelope Waits” and “The Lovely Sirens,” which are based on the Greek mythology of Odysseus. “Penelope Waits” and “The Lovely Sirens” were actually pieces commissioned by Carthage.

What were your expectations for this tour? Did the tour meet these expectations?

I was expecting a lot of rehearsals and performances, and not a whole lot of free time. But actually the first few days we were allowed and encouraged to explore the city and take tours. The last three days we did have concerts, though. And we had one concert at the beginning of the tour. We had one concert at an elementary school, where we played with the students there. But we definitely did have a lot of rehearsals and performances as well, but we did have a lot of free time, which I didn’t expect. But I was pleasantly surprised with all our free time!

What was a highlight of the tour?

The problem is that there are so many different wonderful parts. But honestly I loved having the free time, and the chance we had to branch out into different friendships. You know, with being in an ensemble, you don’t really get to talk to the other sections very much during class. You go and you sit next to the same people you always do, and you leave and there’s not a lot of talking to the people who sit three rows behind you unless you see them elsewhere. I think going on the trip and being able to hang out with and talk to those people, I feel so much closer to the people in that ensemble.

How did you handle the language and cultural barrier?

In our morning class we learned a lot of basics, like how to say general foods, or “I have an allergy,” or “how much does this cost,” or “where is the bathroom,” and other generic phrases.

What are your current plans for after Carthage?

Currently I’m planning on going to another university for Graduate school, university to be decided. I should only need one more year of schooling to earn my Master’s degree in Social Work.

Is there anything else you want to say about the tour to Japan?

I would just like to thank everyone who helped make this possible. It might sound cliché but this was the greatest trip experience that I have ever had.


The Carthage Wind Orchestra will present “Mythological Japan” a concert to celebrate their return from their fifth J-Term Japan Tour on Sunday, February 5 at 1 p.m. in the A. F. Siebert Chapel.  The concert is free and open to the public, with a free-will donation accepted during the concert to help offset travel expenses for the band. Those who cannot attend the concert may watch a live stream at For additional information, please contact Carthage Fine Arts at or 262-551-5859. Be sure to like us on Facebook for upcoming events and information about Fine Arts at Carthage.