Trio Ferace with UND professor Nariaka Sugiura. Group members from the left are: Rachel Abbe, piano; Cecilia Garcia Gaul, violin; and Fernando Vargas, cello.
After traveling more than 6,000 miles and crossing eight different time zones, all members of the University of North Dakota musical group Trio Ferace have returned from Hiratsuka, Japan, back to Grand Forks.
Under the direction of UND piano professor Nariaka Sugiura, the three music students traveled to Tokai University in Japan where they collaborated with students on a final concert at the end of their trip. This trip also aimed to promote the UND Music Department in hopes of getting an exchange program going between the two universities.
"Many people are familiar with Western history, but not many people know about Asian history. Like European countries, Japan has a long history of culture and tradition," said Sugiura. "Since I am originally from Japan, I thought I could introduce my country to some of my students."
Trio Ferace began playing together in January and comprises Cecilia Garcia Gaul, violin; Fernando Vargas, cello; and Grand Forks native, Rachel Abbe, piano.
While in Japan, Abbe, an undergraduate in musical therapy at UND, presented on American music therapy to Japanese audiences.
"It went well," she said. "Due to the language barrier, we had an interpreter to translate my presentation so it was difficult to have a lot of interaction with the students."
The UND trio stayed in homes of people from the community and completely immersed themselves into the culture.
"My host parents didn't speak English very well," said Abbe. "Their daughter used to study at Maine, so it was nice to be able to relate with her on a different level."
Abbe's host family was concerned she might dislike the food in Japan.
"I told them, 'I'm in Japan, I'll try it all!'" Abbe said, wanting to take in as much of the culture as she could.
"The food and the culture were great," Abbe continued. "My host mother is certified in dressing people in kimonos, so she let me try one on. It was really interesting; I didn't realize it took 45 minutes to properly put one on.
"A few of the people in our ensembles are hoping to come visit us during their Spring Break next year. It'd be a lot of fun to expose them to our culture and to how our University is set up."
"They made many friends at the university, and they kept close friendships with the host families," Sugiura added.
Vargas has several friends in Japan, and opted to stay with one of their families for the duration of the trip. "This is my third time in Japan, and I already know most of the customs. I really like Japan, so it's very easy for me to live (there)," said Vargas.
When asked about his experience he said, "What can I say? Japan is amazing, and this time I had the opportunity to perform. I'm really happy to have had such a wonderful experience."
Throughout the spring semester, Trio Ferace held concerts and events to raise money for their trip. "We had great community support," said Abbe. With all of their fundraising efforts, the trio's trip to Japan was completely covered. "It was such a relief not having to worry about travel costs. We were able to go enjoy ourselves and learn as much as we could. We are really grateful for all of the support."
About the ensemble:
Cecilia Florencia Garcia Gaul as born in La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina. She started her violin studies in the Conservatory "Gilardo Gilardi," where she graduated as teacher and performer in 2007. She started her master's degree at UND under instructor Alejandro Drago, in the fall of 2010, and graduated this May.
Fernando Vargas was born in Venezuela. He studied at the Geneva Conservatoire in Switzerland, finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has studied with Daniel Grosgurin, Alexander Russakovsky, and Carmen Rosa Rodriguez. Also, he has received master classes with prestigious maestros such as: Christine Walevska, Joshua Roman, Sandor Devich. Currently, he is pursuing his master's degree in cello performance with Simona Barbu.
Rachel Abbe began lessons with local teacher Gloria Bethke and continued in college with instructor Susan Tang. She is currently an undergraduate in music therapy. She is also majoring in piano performance with Sugiura.