Before the students began performing Takahiro Sugawara, director general of Chugoku-Shikoku Defense Bureau, Yoshihiko Fukuda, mayor of Iwakuni City, and Col. Richard F. Fuerst, commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, gave speeches regarding the pride they had in the students who worked hard to bring the concert to life.
“We gather together to create a harmony of friendship and cooperation which today is expressed in the form of music,” said Fuerst. “I know your parents, your friends and your families are as proud of you as I am, and I hope this is a great experience for you.”
The students had joint practices in the weeks leading up to the concert to help them bond and move past the language barrier.
“At first I thought it would be difficult to play with [the students from M.C. Perry],” said Naoya Tanaka, a student representative of Suo-Oshima Municipal Shimanaka Elementary School. “But I enjoyed it very much.”
Students played with their own schools on a few performances, but they were mostly blended together to perform traditional American and Japanese songs like “It’s a Small World” and “Sakura Sakura,” along with more modern hits such as “Dancing Queen.”
Even songs from other parts of the world were played, such as “African Noel” and “Time to Say Goodbye,” among others.
“Of course the language remains a barrier,” said Larry Wahl, counselor at M.C. Perry School District. “But this music is a common language that we all can enjoy.”
In the finale the students from all the schools came together onstage to perform the song “Try Everything” from the Disney movie Zootopia.
When the concert ended, the audience gave the students a standing ovation, and they waved to each other as their schools were reintroduced.
“Working with foreign students to create this concert was extremely amazing,” said Alaina Smith, an M.C. Perry Elementary School choir student. “Like when I tell you there’s nothing like it, there is nothing like it.”
Smith also took notice that the concert was more than just an occasion to play music.
“I think working with the Japanese students is very important because the more two countries bond, the more it will stay so,” said Smith. “The language barrier didn’t stop us at all with this. We learned all the music, and we socialized, and it went extremely well.”