Archived Story

Turning the beat in Japan

Published 11:27pm Friday, January 31, 2014

Nansemond River High School sophomore Alyssa Bernier’s first overseas trip has been to Japan with the Governor’s School for the Arts, and she has been thrilled by the experience.

Alyssa, who began at the Norfolk regional arts school in her freshman year, was among 32 who traveled to the Land of the Rising Sun for two weeks in late October and early November.

Nansemond River High School sophomore Alyssa Bernier toured Japan recently for a show with the Governor’s School for the Arts. “I found it refreshing, and it made me reflect on my own culture as well,” she said.
Nansemond River High School sophomore Alyssa Bernier toured Japan recently for a show with the Governor’s School for the Arts. “I found it refreshing, and it made me reflect on my own culture as well,” she said.

The show, “I Believe in Music,” delivered a diverse selection of Western musical culture, including songs by Adele, Jersey Boys, Gershwin and others.

Alyssa, who was with the Hurrah Players prior to the Governor’s School, had singing solos in “Disco Inferno” and “Turn the Beat Around.”

“The show was mostly about just bringing everyone together culturally and showing how music can bring everyone together, even though there’s a language barrier,” she said.

Turning 16 in Japan just added to the experience, Alyssa said.

Performing to children, students, adults and dignitaries in three cities, she visited the beach in Miyazaki, gazed upon the perpetually snowcapped Mt. Fuji, and stayed part of the time in the Olympic village in Tokyo.

The trip also took the students to Hiroshima, Osaka and Kitakyushu. “I personally loved visiting the shrines and learning about their (Shinto) religion,” Alyssa said.

“I found it refreshing, and it made me reflect on my own culture, as well. It was just interesting to see their different takes on experiences.”

Alyssa also spoke of the hospitality and graciousness of the Japanese. She and her travel buddy stayed with two host families, one in Hiroshima and the other in Kitakyushu.

In Hiroshima, the family did not speak any English.

But Alyssa said “me and my travel buddy felt more connected with them, just because we got to share our experiences in a deeper, emotional way. They taught us how to make sushi. We tried on kimonos.”

The second family, which did have an English-speaker, gave the girls kimonos as gifts.

When they arrived in Japan, Alyssa said, the people were waiting at the hotel to welcome them. “They made sure that we were comfortable and anything that we needed help with they were there to help us.”

The students from the Governor’s School’s Arts Musical Theater and Instrumental Department have kept at least a little in reserve for their hometown audience: They’re planning a one-night-only show Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. at the Tidewater Community College Roper Center, 340 Granby Street, Norfolk.

Tickets, on sale at www.tccropercenter.com, are $16 for adults and $6 for GSA students.

Alyssa said the Japan performances would help them connect more with the Hampton Roads audience.

“It think it will reflect what we learned in Japan,” she said.

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