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Anime Video Game Ensemble Elevates Musical Horizons at Brown University

by Madonna

In the vibrant tapestry of Brown University’s performing arts scene, where a cappella, musical theater, and various dance styles flourish, a new cadence emerged in spring 2022. Seeking a novel approach to classical music, students coalesced to form the Anime Video Game Ensemble (AVGE), a musical collective dedicated to the captivating melodies of anime and video game soundtracks.

Comprising a substantial main ensemble and several smaller groups, AVGE members curate their repertoire through a collaborative process. Ryan Lee ’26, the arranging chair and a percussionist/pianist within AVGE, explained the intricacies involved. Twice a semester, club members propose songs, listen to excerpts, and cast votes for their favorites.

“Our club is completely student-run, and we play music that’s chosen by club members. As a result, we have to arrange our own music every semester,” Lee noted.

This task is no small feat, emphasized Johann Dizon ’24, one of the club’s founders who conducts the main ensemble. Unlike many student groups that purchase the rights to existing music, AVGE tailors its selections to suit the ensemble, ensuring that every member, regardless of the original score, can actively participate.

The current semester’s repertoire for AVGE features compositions from “Super Mario Galaxy” and the Studio Ghibli movie, Castle in the Sky.

Despite its rapid growth, now boasting 66 members from an initial six in spring 2022, AVGE remains committed to a democratic structure. Dizon explained that decisions, ranging from the choice of songs to future club activities, are subject to member votes. “We’re able to get everyone’s input,” he affirmed.

Emma Hsiao ’25, a new member, recounted suggesting a song at her first AVGE meeting that subsequently won the vote. She humorously noted, “Okay, well now I have to go to rehearsal.”

AVGE prides itself on being a “serious but also relaxed club that anyone can join,” according to Dizon. The club prioritizes inclusivity, aiming to welcome members of all musical backgrounds and abilities. Dizon stated, “We want to make (the club) as accessible as possible” while providing education on music theory, music education, arranging, and music composition.

Richard Dong ’25, co-founder and head director of the smaller ensembles, emphasized AVGE’s commitment to inclusivity. “Our club goal has always been to accept everyone of all musical backgrounds, all instruments — and make sure everyone can play the part they want to play,” he affirmed.

As the club outgrows its current performance space, plans are in motion for a concert in the main hall of the Lindemann Performing Arts Center. Dizon expressed that this venue would be ideal to accommodate both performers and the audience.

Looking forward, Dong aims to strengthen AVGE’s connections with other campus groups and the broader performing arts community. The club is set to host two concerts in early December, featuring a groundbreaking collaboration with Gendo Taiko, a contemporary Taiko drumming club. Dizon shared that one of the showcased songs from “Genshin Impact” incorporates various East Asian folk instruments, including the Taiko drums.

Emma Hsiao is particularly excited about the collaboration, describing the Taiko drums as “bring(ing) the (song’s) fullness to life.” The upcoming concert will also feature the use of a real typewriter as a sound effect in one of the pieces.

The concert’s attire mirrors AVGE’s dual commitment to seriousness and fun, allowing members the choice to dress in black and white concert attire or in cosplay, as mentioned by Dizon.

“AVGE is serious about the music we play, but we also play a really different genre of music that’s not as appreciated within the greater community,” remarked Ryan Lee. “Everyone’s really passionate about spreading anime and video game music.”

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