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LiVEJAM Music School provides more than just an outlet for Tokyo’s teenagers

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A lot of schools in Tokyo (be they international or Japanese) have good music programs, many have extra curricular orchestra, brass, string and even modern ensembles to give students a chance to play, improve and express themselves. But are they really what the kids want? How many times have your kids taken up an instrument only for their enthusiasm to fade away?

A few stops from Shibuya on the Denentoshi Line and two minutes from Gakugei Daigaku station is LiVEJAM Music School, whose mission is "to provide an education vehicle through music for teenagers that will foster creative inspiration and cross cultural communication."

Founder Ken Takagi, the father of two teenagers, founded LiVEJAM with the view of giving his sons a place to practice and perform away from the school setting, in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.

Takagi studied music himself, but instead chose a career in finance, spending 20 years outside of Japan. While in the U.S., he came across many “School of Rock" institutions, and realized not only his sons, but all of the students here in Japan could benefit from this kind of school, and just like that – LiVEJAM was born.

Most students start off at the school taking one-on-one lessons, but as they get more confident and get to know the other students, are encouraged to start up their own band.

The school organizes concerts every 3-4 months to give the students and their bands a goal to work towards: A chance to perform publicly.

“This has been the real key to success. The concerts (JAMOUT’S) are real, the students can experience what it feels like to practice and work on their music, and the reward of giving a great show," says Takagi.

The teachers at the school are not only great musicians in their own right, but have been specially selected, Takagi explains: “Because of their potential to become what we view as good ‘Big brothers’ and ‘big sisters,’ even good mentors for the students.”

We also commit to transparent communication with the parents, and hope that we may even play a small part in facilitating the ‘parent-teenager gap’ where we can”.

Rates at the school vary based on length and intensity of the lessons. trial lessons are available, and for kids who don’t need lessons- they can go and practice or use all the facilities anytime with their band for as little as 8,000 yen per month.

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A lot of schools in Tokyo (be they international or Japanese) have good music programs

A well-researched observation, dazzlingly specific as well, yet strangely unconvincing. Somehow, iIt seems more likely that LiVEJAM started up because Tokyo schools do NOT provide many opportunities to learn music.

I have no idea whether " a lot" of international school in Tokyo have good music programs, but Japanese schools certainly do not. They did not set out to provide an education in the liberal arts, and they have not changed their policy. Music is not taught as an exam subject, and in some public high schools, students are only offered a choice between music and art. Public or private, some schools offer only 1 year of music or art at high school, and I rarely hear of any that allows students to continue with any non-exam subject other than PE into their 3rd year. 3rd year students are not normally allowed to participate in band or choir etc. either.

The exceptions are the handful of schools that have a music department, or a music course. There are roughly 1 or 2 of these per province, and the music "course" schools are usually aimed at students who do not have the academic skills to cope with a general education course. The music "department" schools are extremely rare...not every province has even one. Tokyo is better off than the rest of the country, because the national University of the Arts and the larger private music colleges (around half a dozen of them) have attached high schools, but even so, the total number of Japanese schools in Tokyo and the three surrounding provinces offering music beyond the basic non-exam limit is not more a dozen.

The extra-curricular music opportunities are limited to peer-taught groups. Those that have supervision and funding as a school "bu" still do not offer tuition, although they may provide instruments, and will at least partly sponsor trips to participate in competitions. They usually include choirs (so cheap...!), band, and occasionally orchestra. Non-orchestral instruments, whether Japanese, classical western, or pop, are usually relegated to the unofficial clubs and circles, which are simply given a place to practice, and allowed to perform at the school festival (but not usually at other school events). The situation is pretty much the same at all Japanese schools, public or private.

Great that LiveJAM got some free publicity, but that first paragraph is a waste of space...and that's charitable.

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Schools like this can be great for some kids, for others it gives false hope.

I know a few people who got accepted into decent universities, then got this weird idea in their head that they were meant to be a musician, and dropped out of uni to "focus on music", some joined “School of Rock” kind of places.

They've ended up working part-time jobs well into their late 30's, waiting for their "big break".

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What a ridiculous comment, Probie. Why be so negative and judgmental? Your opinions and standards are not a benchmark for anyone other than yourself, let alone society. It is ridiculous to assert that the happy and successful consist of only those that have found a substantial commercial audience or somehow "graduated" beyond part time work. Complete silliness.

While not every guy enrolled in a music school will be the next Hendrix, Collins, or even Bieber… (shudder)… there are plenty of perfectly HAPPY people chasing their dreams, turning up for their oh-so-shameful part time jobs, enjoying their lives without corporate shackles, and finding a level of happiness doing what they really want to do by strumming away alone in their lowly shared 1LDK in the hopes of their "big break". What is so shameful or detestable about people doing what they really want to do? Must we all somehow fall into corporate Monday to Friday middle-management contracts in order to be successful, let alone happy?

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