WCBT's Lotus Band Performs @ District Conference
by Peter Hata

On Sunday, October 15, 2000, the seven talented teen musicians that make up WCBT’s Lotus Band "took their show on the road" and performed at the Quiet Cannon Country Club in Montebello, California. They were part of the entertainment for the Banquet portion of the North American District’s 500th Memorial for Rennyo Shonin. The Lotus Band is comprised of Lindsay Ogino and Allison Haraguchi on vocals and percussion, Amy Sakaue on alto and soprano sax, Kyle Kagawa on guitar, Kevin Hata on guitar, flute and keyboard, Brandon Leong on keyboard and percussion and Kiyoshi Earley on taiko drums and percussion.

During the soundcheck for their gig, Lotus Band advisor Mr. Peter Hata offers instructions for their performance
Their exciting and well-received set consisted of a rock-influenced version of the gatha "How Sweetly the Lotus Grows," which featured vocals by Lindsay and Allison and a fluid guitar solo by Kevin. This was followed by the pop tune "Sukiyaki," which featured the vocalists and an impressive, jazzy solo by Amy on alto sax. Next was a beautiful rendition of "Ganjin’s Journey," which featured melodic singing by Lindsay and Allison as well as a memorable instrumental break consisting of Kevin on flute and Amy on soprano sax. Following that, the audience was treated to the sophisticated pop ballad "Reflections," definitely one of the highlights of the set, which featured wonderful vocal performances by both Lindsay and Allison.

Left to right, Brandon Leong, Lindsay Ogino, Allison Haraguchi, Kevin Hata, Kiyoshi Earley, Amy Sakaue and Kyle Kagawa performed a beautiful version of "Ganjin's Journey." Ganjin was the Buddhist monk credited with originally bringing Buddhism to Japan from China

The "frontline" of Lindsay, Allison and Amy in action during "Reflections," one of the highlights of their set
The finale was a dynamic version of "The Three Treasures," featuring not only the vocalists, but also an instrumental break with Kevin and Amy, this time joined by guitarist Kyle, who added a contemporary, metallic edge to the brew. Adding support to not only this song, but to all the songs, were the foot-tapping rhythms of Kiyoshi on taiko drums and Brandon on keyboard.

Above left, Brandon's keyboard provided the harmonic "glue" that held the music together; above right, the "backline" of Kevin (here on synthbass), Kiyoshi on taiko and Kyle on guitar provided a strong foundation throughout the set
I’d like to say a little about my experience of working with these teens. My role, of course, was as the arranger/booking agent/roadie. On the one hand, I must admit I had my concerns in the beginning. From personal experience as a professional musician, I knew how much time and effort is required to pull off something of this magnitude. And without a doubt, regardless of effort, real musical talent would be indispensable. Not only are some of these songs rather advanced—even professional musicians would certainly have to practice them—but also some of the band members had relatively little experience. Additional pressure was provided by knowing that Lotus would be a featured act at a District function, with members from all the Higashi temples in America, as well as representatives from the Headquarters in Japan. In truth, I know I asked (they might say "demanded") a great deal of them for this gig.

Kevin and Amy, both accomplished young musicians, sounded great together on "Ganjin's Journey


At the Rennyo Shonin 500th Memorial Banquet, Lotus Band's performance was a highlight for the many Higashi Honganji members who attended the event.
In the end, each one of them came through and delivered. They showed that they all have "what it takes." They took this gig very seriously and practiced their parts diligently, overcoming many obstacles in the process. Most importantly, at the long rehearsals and at the gig itself, they always maintained the highest professional standards of conduct.
I think that if you asked them, they would say they enjoyed this experience. But I wonder who got more out of it, them or me? I had a wonderful time working with them. They all have such a great attitude. It was really an honor and a privilege to work with them.

left to right, front row: Allison Haraguchi, Lindsay Ogino, Amy Sakaue, Mr. Peter Hata; back row; Kyle Kagawa, Kevin Hata, Brandon Leong, Kiyoshi Earley