After my 3 months internship, I got the opportunity to volunteer at a Jazz festival in Sapporo, Japan! I was there for 10 days and in such a short time, I learnt and experienced so much.
At the festival known as Sapporo City Jazz, I had various tasks such as preparing artiste dress rooms, escort artiste to and from the festival venue, promote the shows to the English and Chinese speaking tourists as well as designing English promotional posters. I also helped out in other aspects such as ushering and helping out at the official merchandise store where I communicated with international guests.
I think what’s most fascinating about being behind the scenes with these Japanese people is seeing how detailed they are in whatever they do. On my first day volunteering at the festival, I stayed for a staff meeting after all the guests had left the venue. Although I barely understood what they were saying, I could grasp what they were discussing. They were preparing for the show happening the next day by going through the whole 9 hour programme. They went through all the slideshows to make sure everyone’s name was spelled correctly – not two, not three but four times! They also went through the emcee’s script and made changes to best suit his character and the show. The meeting ended past midnight and the next day, some of them had to get up at 5am to pick up international artists from the airport. Yet, they did not look tired the next day, in fact, they continued to smile and bow at guests so welcomingly.
After the show that night, they hosted a party for all staff – from the backstage crew, the soundman to the restaurant staff to celebrate getting through half of the whole festival. At the party, I was called up to give a “speech” to introduce myself. Everyone was so welcoming!
When it came to designing English promotional posters, I think they did not expect much from me as I had nothing much on my plate that morning so they gave me something to do. They opened up Microsoft PowerPoint and asked me to help design a promotional poster for their mineral water vending machine Jazz Water which will be placed around the venue of Odori Park which is a famous tourist spot.
After designing a very simple promotional poster, the staff was surprised at what I came out with using Microsoft PowerPoint. I would have preferred having access to Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. However I did my best and they seemed to like it – so they decided to task me with designing more promotional posters for international artistes as well as the remaining Japanese bands that are about to perform in the remaining days of the festival. All their promotional materials both online and offline are in Japanese and the tourists usually find it hard to judge whether the shows are worth going. I’ve seen tourists pass by, take a flyer and put it back because they didn’t understand it. So I think the posters I designed with the help of Google translate were somewhat helpful for them and I was so glad to assist!
Convincing tourists was not an easy task as well. Jazz is not a very popular genre among teenagers, so when families come to look at the line-up, it was easier to convince the parents, but not their children. Being a huge fan of Jazz music, I try to convince them that Jazz is not just elevator music or fancy hotel toilet music. Jazz comes in so many forms and mixes! The beauty of Jazz is in its improvisations and experimentation! I wish people would be more open to get out of their comfort zone and explore different types of music. In my time of volunteering, I managed to convince two families – although it took a lot of effort – to watch some really talented musicians who truly deserve a full house venue!
The best of the 10 days was when one of the superiors of Sapporo City Jazz brought me and two other staff to have lunch and dessert! When he heard that I had shoyu ramen, he was frustrated because Sapporo is known for its Miso soup. He insisted to bring me to a ramen restaurant for a second lunch. After that, we went to a really nice and hipster dessert place! It was truly a blessing – I honestly wondered why I deserved all of that. The superior had to head back to the festival venue while the two staff brought me to Maruyama Park and when I told them that I was a bit disappointed that I will be flying back before the fireworks festival. They insisted to go buy sparklers to play at Toyohira river (where the fireworks festival was going to be held) that night. We had lots of fun and I felt so very grateful. Such a favour!
There are so many more stories to tell but I will let the pictures do the job. So here is a little bit of my volunteering experience at Sapporo City Jazz!