Madowaku Gakuin / Free Stage Madowaku (Hamamatsu, Shizuoka) in the news

SHIZUOKA / School of rock offers 2nd chance
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Children who refuse to go to school or have dropped out are being offered a new learning experience, one that will rock them to the soles of their feet.

Tsuneo Uejima, owner of a live music venue in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, plans to launch a free school next spring to coincide with the venue’s relocation.

Kids who attend the free school, named Madowaku Gakuin, will learn to rock by playing instruments and be given work experience in a handful of trades so they can proceed to higher education or get a job.

Uejima, 58, opened Madowaku, which can hold about 300 people, in 2004. While leading a rock band club for primary, middle and high school students, he saw kids jumping up and down with excitement as they chased their aspirations through music.

“I felt music could be the best way to support and encourage children who don’t fit in at school and help them integrate into society,” he said. He decided to open a free school after talking to a school counselor he knows.

Madowaku Gakuin will accept children and young people up to 20 years old who have not attended higher educational institutions or worked after graduating from middle school. The school hopes that letting these children get hands-on experience in farming, confectionery making and other skills four days a week will help them get a job.

The school hopes the kids will be able to lead a more regular lifestyle by communicating better with their peers through music and dancing.

Uejima plans to invite them to concerts at Madowaku and let them unleash their musical talents by playing instruments there.

Madowaku is scheduled to move into a new building not too far from its current location next spring. Madowaku Gakuin will be on the building’s fourth floor.

Madowaku is home to Free Stage Madowaku, which has accepted school dropouts from this spring and provides them with a place to learn and play music. Free Stage Madowaku will be set up on the third floor of the new facility and continue to accept children who no longer attend school.

When Uejima held an explanatory meeting about both facilities in Hamamatsu in early July, 11 children and their parents attended.

According to Uejima, many of the parents were worried about whether their children would find a job and he was peppered with questions about the job experience activities at the school.

He said a male and a female middle school student who attended the meeting started to study by themselves twice a week at Free Stage Madowaku.

“I hope kids who have trouble fitting in can develop social skills and gain confidence by associating with their peers through music,” Uejima said.

Monthly tuition fees for Madowaku Gakuin and Free Stage Madowaku are between 20,000 yen and 50,000 yen. A counselor and a music coach will teach the children.

(Aug. 9, 2009) The Yomiuri Shimbun

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