They packed the house and then they brought it down. About 100 representatives of Tyler Junior College are in Japan this week taking a taste of East Texas to US troops stationed there, and they're also making a special visit to a sister they don't see very often.
Yachiyo City, Japan has been Tyler's sister city for the last 20-years and Sunday, the TJC band and Apache Belles took a show as big as Texas itself to a packed gymnasium where these siblings got to show off a little. Joe Terrell and Jamey Boyum are with the band and belles all week during their "Journey to Japan" and as you'll see there's no sibling rivalry, just a better understanding of the good things that make us very much the same, even though our worlds are so very different.
"Japanese people are very shy but American people are very friendly. I love American people," says a middle school aged girl, looking up wide-eyed to a fully costumed TJC Apache Belle.
If a statement like that was the goal behind hauling ninety-something American college students, their costumes and instruments, more than 6-thousand miles, mission accomplished.
Of course, it works both ways.
"They really made me feel at home. It was really special to me and exciting," says Apache Belle, Micaela Difonzo.
It took about three hours for the citizens of these two cities, total strangers really, to become like family.
Seems nothing brings people together like music and dancing.
Some of the musical numbers, the outfits, big Texas hair, some of those things might have occasionally taken this crowd of 15-hundred by surprise but these Texans just keep coming at you with big smiles, big songs, and high kicks. let them spend some time entertaining you and when you step away and really watch you see these Texans are kind of irresistible.
"The Apache Belles are charming and beautiful," says Kazu Seshimo Vice President of Yachiyo City's chapter of sister cities international.
Every American in the room walked away raving about the middle school band from Yachiyo.
They performed a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and rival any school band you've ever heard, at any level, high school or college
"It was amazing, phenomenal players. The amount of time they put in to perform at that level, is amazing," says Pete Valdez, a tuba player with the Apache band.
TJC band director, Tom Mensch says child musicians in Japan are taught differently and have great discipline. That, they do. But they can also let their hair down.
The house was literally brought down after the performance to learn the cotton eyed Joe.
Belles, band and hundreds of brothers and sisters from cities very far away, but no longer, so far apart.
Monday, it's Yachiyo's turn to show off a little more. The band and Apache Belles will tour the city and a local university. Yachiyo City, is about an hour and a half drive from Tokyo and roughly twice the population of Tyler.
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