CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan – As the Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band filed onto the stage with their instruments, applause swelled from the packed auditorium. Members of the Okinawa community and distinguished visitors were treated to a symphonic journey through music May 9, 2016 at Tedako Hall, Okinawa, Japan. For the first time in two years, the III MEF Band performed their Spring concert featuring music from modern American classics like West Side Story, as well as music from famed Japanese composers.
“This is the first time in a very long time that we’ve come out into the community doing a theater cooperation event by ourselves, and not with another organization such as the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Band,” said enlisted conductor Gunnery Sgt. James M. Stanley. “It’s a big deal for us, because it does fulfill the second part of our primary mission, to provide community relations support for the Marine Corps, and to provide community relations support and theater cooperation support for the III Marine Expeditionary Force.”
III MEF Commander Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, Ginowan City Mayor Atsushi Sakima, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Masashi Mizukami and many other distinguished visitors attended the concert. The III MEF band often performs for local audiences in a conjoined ensemble with the JGSDF 15th Brigade Band. For this concert, one of the main pieces performed was dedicated to the victims of the 2011 great East Japan earthquake and the victims in the recent earthquake in Kumamoto.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for Japanese citizens to come in and see who these Marines are who live in their neighborhoods and work in their towns,” Stanley said. “What this does is show that yes, there are a lot of service members here on the island, but we are here in cooperation and support. This effort is about celebrating peace and prosperity between two great nations.”
Masaaki Ishiki, a community relations specialist for Marine Corps Installations Pacific G-7, said that events like these, including the III MEF Band’s upcoming joint concert with the 15th Brigade band in September, are crucial for creating mutual and support and respect between the two nations.
“In Japan, wind ensembles are very popular, especially among the younger population,” Ishiki said. “That gives this band, which is one of the only military bands on this island, the chance to show off their talent and to share it with music fans. The III MEF band serves in the role of ambassador to Okinawa, and they are doing an excellent job.”
The III MEF Band is comprised of 50 Marines, and performs in over 300 events each year, including the Japan Self-Defense Force Marching Festival, the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Okinawa City Street Parade