The Conservatory

The St. Lucia University of Music was a fairly large private Jesuit school with around one thousand students. Shortly after the war the school was formed and run by Jesuit missionaries but as time passed it evolved into one of Japan’s most prestigious music conservatories. There were seven priests that administered and taught at the school. They did not ware the priest’s frock and except for an adjacent church and a few subtle Christian symbols in the school itself, one would never get the feeling it was a Catholic school. These Jesuit Priests had done an extraordinary job of creating a world-class music conservatory.

For some reason, which was never made clear to Gianni, there was a large majority of women in it’s enrollment, in fact, there has been so many more women than men for so many years that there were twice as many women’s toilets in the school then men’s! Finding the men’s room his first few weeks at St. Lucia was not easy!

The school had clearly the friendliest students, faculty and staff Gianni had ever seen. He was so used to the harder streetwise school personal of North America and to a lesser degree Europe, that the polite and gentler Japanese were extraordinarily refreshing, especially the girls; this 3 to 1 ratio of girls! Maybe it was the bows; maybe it was the shy giggles or simply the obvious unquestioning respect. Gianni was used to being called Maestro Grosso in Europe and frankly, he liked that, but Grosso Sensei with a bow, a smile and (from the girls) a giggle, he liked a lot more.

It was his first day of teaching and it was lunchtime, he had two hours to explore and get something to eat. Down the street a few hundred meters he found a wonderful food market, clearly only of the very highest quality. As he looked in the window of this store he noticed two attractive girls shopping. They smiled at him through the window and bowed, Gianni decided to go in and look around!

First of all, it was a superb market, the best of all things edible; that alone was pleasing. As he browsed through the store he encountered the two girls again. One was quite attractive, but the other was of such exquisite beauty he couldn’t take his eyes off of her; she was a Goddess. She was tall, elegant, statuesque, and had on a very well fitting pair of jeans and some very high-healed silver sequined shoes, which seemed to be in fashion among students in Japan at the moment. But there was much more, she was proud, she radiated an inner strength, character, and wisdom that Gianni found almost overpowering; she would look him straight in the eye as though she knew every thought in his mind and aspect of his soul, and at the same time with a warm friendly smile. Gianni smiled back and escaped to the Seven Eleven across the street. He wanted to see the market dynamics between high and low end.

The convenience markets in Japan are not depressing like those Gianni had experienced in the west, there were no drug addicts, beggars nor was there that omni present theft potential he felt so strongly in the US, the UK and much of Europe. As he browsed and thought about getting something to take out for lunch he met the two girls again, they came in and were also browsing. This time he discovered that the Goddess was even more amazing than she was across the street. This time the smile was a much more direct and accompanied by a small bow, which he had learned represents recognition. He smiled, gave a recognition bow in return and escaped again; he had his first rehearsal with the orchestra in an hour; this was not a good time to entertain the thought of meeting a Goddess.

Back in the University of Music rehearsal would start in 5 minutes, Gianni was excited and ready, the director of the school introduced him, the ensemble stood up, bowed and welcomed him in unison and he began working on the Dvorak New World Symphony, it was going very well and he was thoroughly happy. As he turned to que the English horn for the famous solo in the Largo, he saw the Goddess two meters away from him taking a deep breath to make her entrance. Gianni tried not to over react but he feared he might have made such a double take that he gave his surprise away. She played beautifully and Gianni spent the rest of the rehearsal trying not to look at her, to deal with her just like the other musicians and to keep his mind on the preparation of the Dvorak. He was sure he was successful; except to her, somehow he had the feeling she knew he saw her as a Goddess. He made a conscious decision at that moment never to try and find out.

For the next few days where ever Gianni went he encountered her. On a Sunday afternoon during a national holiday the students organized a carnival in the garden of the school, there were several booths set up to sell snacks and drinks and as Gianni walked through the booths each of them offered him samples of their wares, yakitori, sugared popcorn, miso soup, bean cakes, cookies, they were all good. Finally Gianni met the director of the school, the man who was responsible for his conducting job, and as they stood conversing for most of the next hour, the goddess appeared and passed by eight times! As the director was a Jesuit priest, Gianni was quite conscious to try not to notice; it was very difficult. After several of these passes Gianni and she gave recognition bows and Gianni simply said,

“ She’s the English horn player”.

The next day he finally met the Goddess face to face and Gianni asked if she spoke English, she smiled and said “skosh” with an embarrassed laugh. That was the end of his first conversation with the Goddess; there would be many more.

After his Japanese lesson the next morning Gianni was standing just outside the entrance of the school enjoying the bright sunshine and delicious ice coffee he had just bought from a vending machine. It was a beautiful street with a mixture of pedestrian, bicycle and motor traffic.

Down the street he saw the form of a woman approaching and as she got closer he could see it was the Goddess. As she approached he could see she was warring a long deep
red skirt with a blue and brown free form pattern, a dark blue silk blouse and a beautiful large brown leather bag over her shoulder, big enough to hold an oboe and an English horn case. Except for her pair of tacky sequined very high-heeled shoes these were not the clothes of a normal university student. Somewhere in her life there was some economic backing.

She was also carrying a beautiful traditional crimson Japanese parasol and as she glided toward the school with her long hair blowing in the breeze she was a fantastic fusion of Japanese and western beauty and tradition. When she passed Gianni at the school entrance she stopped for a moment, smiled, bowed then continued into the school. Gianni was stunned, how could there possibly be any woman that beautiful?

As the weeks and months passed she was always there, it seemed anytime Gianni would move from one place to the other in the school they would meet; he had to ask himself if this was by chance or design. It had the look of a silly schoolgirl, infatuated with her teacher, making herself always visible, but there was something more than just that, she also had the demeanor of a powerful confident woman who knew what she wanted. It was time for some serious rational thinking, not easy when one is chronically crossing paths with a Goddess. Tough thoughts: she couldn’t be any older than twenty-four at the most and probably less, Gianni was sixty-six. The Goddess spoke no English; Gianni spoke very little Japanese. Social codes in Japanese academia all but forbid relationships between teachers and students and in general the differences in the sociologies in both time and space were almost insurmountable. Bottom line: Gianni saw that he had to remove himself from this growing preoccupation and fantasy. However, it was becoming clearer day-by-day that the Goddess had not processed the same rational thinking. It was also clear to Gianni that his feelings were not always in line with his deductive reasoning. But time would take care of these feelings and the fact that he would soon be leaving for a three-month tour in Europe and North America seemed to ease the tension.

Continue to Section 3: The Party, The Designer Club

Copyright 2005. Design by Rose Schweikhart