• [ Thumbnail ] Creating Bonds by Expanding Musical Opportunities #3

Creating Bonds by Expanding Musical Opportunities #3

Shaping the Future by Playing Music Together

September 6, 2023

The School Project shares the joy of music and ensemble with children across the world. SYNCROOM connects people across long distances and makes it possible to jam in real-time. At a glance, these two initiatives seem to have little in common — one in-person and the other virtual; one educational and the other leisure. They are, however, both rooted in Yamaha’s devotion to providing opportunities to enjoy playing music with others. This unifying “Key” inspires an ever-expanding wave of musical synergy that creates bonds across the world.

Note to Note, Heart to Heart

In addition to manufacturing and selling musical instruments, Yamaha helps sustain and develop music cultures by actively providing opportunities for people to play. What drives Yamaha in this effort is the genuine belief that playing musical instruments and making music with others can enrich lives. SYNCROOM and the School Project are among the initiatives that embody this belief.

By significantly minimizing latency in audio transmission, SYNCROOM made it possible for people to hear and play to each other’s sounds in real-time. This is a significant achievement, since the disconnect in sound can often lead to the disconnect in players' hearts as well.

Erika Kitahara, who is involved in the product planning and marketing of SYNCROOM, articulates the magic of the technology by saying, “Because the delay is unnoticeably small, players can experience a very real, vivid feeling of sharing the same time and space. We’ve even seen people use SYNCROOM to just have conversations with each other without making any music.” This use case came as an unexpected surprise, but it is a telling example of how well SYNCROOM bridges emotional distance and facilitates connections between people.

[ Thumbnail ] Erika Kitahara from the Service Planning and Development Group, Music Connect Department
Erika Kitahara from the Service Planning and Development Group, Music Connect Department

Kitahara continues, “In a jam session, you try to listen to everyone’s sound as you add your own contribution into the mix. When the music comes together in perfect unison, it feels like your hearts are also in sync. SYNCROOM helps people achieve that kind of togetherness virtually as well.”

The School Project also promotes this togetherness, but through music and instrumental music education. Many children who benefit from the program have said that the music classes make them more excited to go to school. According to Ayaka Hayashi, who is responsible for project management and promoting inclusive education, the essence of the project lies in “making harmony together”. “Some types of musical instruments can be played solo, but in an ensemble, the music can only come to life when all the sounds come together. Working as a team is what makes ensembles so fun, and it’s also what nurtures mutual respect and consideration.”

[ Thumbnail ] Ayaka Hayashi, a member of the Music Popularization Group in the Asia-Pacific Sales Division
Ayaka Hayashi, a member of the Music Popularization Group in the Asia-Pacific Sales Division

Listening carefully and complementing each other is what creates good ensemble music. This is why collaboration is one of the key pillars of the School Project. Kazuki Watanabe, who works on project management and digital content creation for the School Project, elaborates, “Collaboration does not come from pressuring each other to stay in line. You can only create something new together when you accept each other’s differences and opinions.” Music and instrumental music education has the potential to nurture this kind of collaboration in children. Watanabe continues, “I believe that learning to collaborate through music will help children make collaborative innovations in other facets of their lives as well.”

[ Thumbnail ] Kazuki Watanabe, a member of the Music Popularization Group in the Asia-Pacific Sales Division
Kazuki Watanabe, a member of the Music Popularization Group in the Asia-Pacific Sales Division

Music Players Bringing New Cultures to Life

Both SYNCROOM and the School Project are already inspiring collaboration and innovation among players.

Kitahara shares what she has witnessed unfold among SYNCROOM users. “When a newcomer is struggling to navigate their way through the platform, it’s not uncommon for more experienced users to extend a helping hand or even invite them to a jam session.” This was an unexpected and delightful development for Kitahara and her team. While Yamaha has been strengthening its support system, the users have also taken it upon themselves to help each other and foster a culture of support. “It’s moving to think that SYNCROOM is shaped by its users and the connections that they nurture among themselves,” Kitahara says.

Naoki Yamamoto, who is involved in the development of SYNCROOM, mentions a creative way users have utilized the platform. “I’ve heard of people combining SYNCROOM with VR (virtual reality) services.” He shares his excitement about the platform expanding beyond the developers’ expectations by saying, “I hope we can keep evolving and adapting to our users by taking inspiration from their creative and spontaneous ideas.”

Naoki Yamamoto from the Service Planning and Development Group, Music Connect Department
Naoki Yamamoto from the Service Planning and Development Group, Music Connect Department

Watanabe, a member of the School Project, has witnessed teachers and students take creative agency in the classroom as well. “At one school in Indonesia, the students were enjoying ensemble in a way we never expected by combining local gamelan instruments with the recorders we provided through the program.” True to the spirit of collaboration and innovation, this small classroom in Indonesia was bringing its own style of music to life.

These examples illustrate how new cultures are forged when individuals are given the opportunity to achieve musical synergy with others. “I think it’s important that users have the creative initiative, rather than the service provider dictating how the platform should be used.” Once Yamaha builds the foundation for people to connect through music, it can allow the community of users to let their imaginations run wild. The creativity of the users gives birth to unexpected ideas, which Yamaha can then build on to contribute to a more sustainable growth of musical culture. Once embodied by VOCALOID, this ethos of making waves in tandem with its users continues to pulsate in the DNA of Yamaha.

Musical Synergy Expanding Across the World

Kitahara, Hayashi, Watanabe, and Yamamoto are hopeful that the synergy born through musical collaboration can ripple into all corners of the world.

For Kitahara and Yamamoto, the ultimate goal for SYNCROOM is for users to freely engage in musical sessions across borders. “We have a long way ahead with the technology and infrastructure limitations, but it’s exciting to imagine a future in which people can jam in real-time with other people on any part of the globe.” To achieve this vision, the team is working hard on expanding the service to other countries. The first but sure step was South Korea, where the service was made available in June of 2023.

Yamaha also has a clear vision for the School Project. “Ultimately, our aspiration for the School Project is to contribute to making the world a better place,” Hayashi says. The School Project philosophy, which was inspired by the Constitution of UNESCO, is to construct the “defenses of peace” in the hearts of children across the world. “If the project can successfully nurture the spirit of proactive action and collaboration in students, they can grow up to become adults who will make positive change.”

Both SYNCROOM and the School Project provide opportunities for people to enjoy playing music together. The future these projects portray is one where individuals from opposite ends of the world can jam together in real time, and where a beacon of peace is built in the hearts of the young. These futures envisioned by Kitahara, Hayashi, Watanabe, and Yamamoto are no utopia. They are real possibilities that can be woven together into reality through collaboration — collaboration that can be inspired with the power of music.

(Interview date: February 2023)

Three-Part Series: Creating Bonds by Expanding Musical Opportunities