The BCA Northwest District accepted a request earlier this summer from Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada to organize a new BCA Ad Hoc Music Committee. This new effort is aimed at increasing and enhancing all types of music in temples and districts and involving Sangha members of all ages.
Kemi Nakabayashi, service music coordinator at Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple, agreed to be the committee chairperson. Rinban Rev. Katsuya Kusunoki from the Seattle Betsuin and Rev. Yuki Sugahara from Oregon Buddhist Temple are the ministerial advisers. Ex-officio members are Rev. Harada; Rev. Harry Bridge, chair of the BCA Ministers Association; and BCA President Dr. Kent Matsuda.
Reaching out to all BCA districts, the Music Committee has held two sizable Zoom meetings with more than 60 participants each, including Dharma School representatives. This organizing group has prepared a BCA Ad Hoc Music Committee charter to present to the BCA National Board in December. Meanwhile, the subcommittees are brainstorming ideas and tasks for the future.
The stated purpose and functions of the Music Committee are as follows:
support the mission statement of the Buddhist Churches of America to promote Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha as well as to propagate Jodo Shinshu teachings through music;
explore, develop, and enhance all aspects of music at BCA churches and temples;
create a community of harmony within BCA temples and districts, and across the BCA through involvement of ministers and Sangha members of all ages; and
provide an organizational structure through which formal collaboration with regard to music may be undertaken and developed with Kyodans outside the mainland United States (for example, Hawaii Music Committee and the equivalent members in Canada).
The following subcommittees were created: Sutra, Gagaku, Service Music, New Gathas, Vocal Music, Instrumental Music, Music History, Bon Odori/Taiko/Public Music, Technical Support, and Copyright & Publications. In addition, anticipated live events will be organized by a Performance and Community Outreach subcommittee after the pandemic is over.
The Music Committee has begun surveying temples and churches to provide an optimal way to communicate and also to assess needs and solicit ideas for our working groups. The results of the survey of BCA ministers and temple presidents can be compiled soon to share with subcommittee leaders.
Initial BCA music committee plans include creating a page on the BCA website and making gatha recordings available to share. In addition, the Music History subcommittee has connected with the BCA Archives Committee. Two gatha collaborations have also already been produced across BCA districts through the wonders of technology and the new connections made through this Music Committee.
The “Time for Dharma School” video was featured Sept. 13 for Seattle Betsuin’s first day of Dharma School service and “Shinran’s Family” made its premiere Oct. 4 for the Seattle Betsuin’s Eshinniko and Kakushinniko Memorial Service.
Making new Dharma friends across BCA through our shared interest in music has been exciting. However, this music initiative is an enormous endeavor, requiring active participation from all BCA districts over time.