News: Marines, Okinawans bond through music
Story by Lance Cpl. Alyssa N. Gunton
OKINAWA CITY, Japan - The III Marine Expeditionary Force Band and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s 15th Band held a combined music concert at the Okinawa City Civic Center here Sept. 17.
The 16th Annual Friendship Through Music Concert was standing room only as an audience of more than 500 packed into the civic center.
The combined concert is one way Marines positively impact the community, said one III MEF Band member.
“We are able to show Okinawa that the Marines are here for a good cause,” said Cpl. Eric Gonzales, a trumpet player with the III MEF Band.
Playing with the Japanese musicians also sharpens the III MEF Band’s musical skills, said Gonzales.
“Playing with other musicians keeps us sharp and on top of our game,” said Gonzales. “We want to make sure we stay keen with our music, especially since the 15th Band members are also experts in this field.”
Practicing together in preparation for this concert not only sharpened musical skills, it strengthened the bonds between the members of the two bands and provided an opportunity to share cultures through more than just music.
“We traveled to Camp Naha where the 15th Band is stationed, and afterwards they treated us to curry,” said Staff Sgt. Austin R. Moore, a saxophone section leader with the III MEF Band. “We held a barbecue when they came to practice at Camp Foster.
“During these practices, I saw how many similarities I shared with members of the 15th Band,” said Moore. “Even through the language barrier, we were able to talk through music and body language. It was funny to find that the things I often say, they say also.”
A 15th Band member echoed the sentiment that the two bands have created lasting friendships.
“I now go to multiple III MEF Band concerts throughout the year,” said Leading Pvt. Keiko Sashihara, a French horn player with the 15th Band. “After the concerts, I am able to catch up with friends I have made through our combined concert.”
After the final notes of the performance rang through the auditorium, applause swelled from the crowd.
The response was one Sashihara said he appreciates.
“15th Band enjoys this concert and hopes it continues for many years on,” said Sashihara.