Melissa Rooney Blogging

Melissa Rooney Blogging

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." – Mahatma Gandhi

Middle- and High-School Strings Students Amaze at Animazement in Raleigh, NC, this Weekend

My 14-year-old  daughter plays viola in the Duke University String School’s Youth Symphony Orchestra, which yesterday performed an Anime Symphony (entitled Space Brothers) at the 2016 Animazement Convention in Raleigh, NC (…/hundreds-get-into-character-for-animazem…/). The symphony was written, designed and conducted by renowned Japanese movie composer and record producer Toshiyuki Watanabe, who flew in from Japan just for the event (…/bio.shtml/5905/Toshiyuki_Watanabe).

“Every time we have a ten-minute break, the Japanese composer gets a massage from one of his staff!” my daughter texted me during dress rehearsal the day before. It was a cultural experience from the get go.

At the link below is a very brief excerpt of my favorite part of the actual performance. Scenes from the Anime movie, Space Brothers, appeared on giant screens on either side of the orchestra. At times, I was so absorbed in the images that I forgot the music was being played, live, right in front of me. When I remembered that it was being played by middle- and high-school students, it literally blew me away.




A brief video is available at


13319991_1202183996481906_8254402212882155492_nNot only were students provided this unprecedented musical opportunity, each member of their immediate families was given a one-day pass to the Animazement Convention on the day of the performance and were, thus, exposed to the playful, eccentric and nerdy (by self-proclamation) Japanese-turned-international subculture of Anime. Most significant was the ‘Cosplay’, the practice of attendees dressing, often elaborately and at great expense, as their favorite anime or traditional cartoon character and busking or playing live chess or other games. It was worth attending just to people watch.


Photo credit: Photosnxs


My daughter’s favorite parts were the artists and dealers markets. Alongside a plethora of Japanese products like Pocky’s (chocolate covered biscuit sticks) and colorful bottles of Ramune soda (each hourglass neck sealed with an actual marble),  strange hand-made plush dolls, life-sized octopus tentacles, fluorescent wigs, prop weapons, figurines, posters, books, pins, jewelry and even on-site art classes (like make-your-own plush sushi) were sold.

“It’s just like Japan,” my daughter declared excitedly as the escalator carried us down to the exhibitors. And she would know. Last year, on a business trip with her dad, she spent a blissful week in Tokyo, eating sushi three times a day and visiting the most eccentric tourist destinations they could find. (I am convinced that my daughter was Japanese in a previous life.)



Photo credit: Raleigh News and Observer


The Duke University String School (DUSS, is open to all children aged 5-18 and, in partnership with KidzNotes (, provides musical training and opportunities to every child, regardless of their ability to pay. Participants in the 2016 Animazement Festival were even provided valet parking service, including the tip! If you live near Durham, NC, you should look into DUSS and/or Kidznotes for your kids, and, if you don’t live in this area, you should find out if anything like these orgs exists near you.

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