Music festival makes comeback at Camp Zama; US artists share important message
CAMP ZAMA, Japan - The Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation of U.S. Army Garrison Japan hosted the 2015 Music Friendship Festival - an event focused on uniting communities in the spirit of friendship from and beyond the installation through music, food and fun - at Yano Field Sept. 12 on the installation.
Paul Stearns, the previous acting director of DFMWR USAG Japan, and current chief recreational officer of Camp Zama MWR, said this was the first music festival held since 2012 due to spending cuts implemented in 2013 throughout the U.S. federal government.
"This said this was also the first time the festival featured several artists from the U.S.," said Stearns.
With nearly 6,000 Japanese and American community members in attendance, the festival began with a performance from a local band called Secret followed by the U.S. Army Japan Uncle Sam's All-American Brass Band.
The day continued with the five U.S. recording artists- Changing Faces, Tony Terry, Color Me Badd, All-4-One, and headliner Ginuwine.
Singing, dancing, waving hands and smiling faces were all over the place as musical sound waves were transmitted around the installation.
In the midst of the excitement amongst the crowds, the singers took a moment during their performances to share messages on bullying, sexual harassment / assault, and suicide prevention to the audience, which consisted of Soldiers, other service members, family members, civilians, local national employees and the surrounding communities at large.
The messages on suicide prevention were timely because the Army recognizes September as National Suicide Prevention Month.
"You guys go through a lot of stuff and sometimes you contemplate things like suicide. I'm going to say 'don't do it!'" singer Tony Terry said during an instrumental break during his performance of "Everlasting Love" - one of his signature hits.
"If something like that is pressing on your mind so heavy, pick up the phone and call somebody and say 'I need help.' Don't let your pride get in the way."
In an interview backstage, Ginuwine spoke on his personal experiences of losing his father to suicide and his mother to cancer and how he almost made the decision to end it all.
"My dad committed suicide back in '99 so this is something near and dear to my heart," Ginuwine said. "It hurts. I've been there. A lot of people have been there, but your life is worth more than you taking it. Talk to your family and friends. Go to church. Talk to your pastor. That's what I had to do. You weren't given life to take it away," he continued.
These messages were well received by the audience and many of the Soldiers as evidenced by the positive reactions throughout the day.
One Soldier had a few words to say about it.
"When you have a musical group that has sold 22 million records worldwide [All-4-One] and one of the top [rhythm and blues] solo artists of the late 90s and early 2000s [Ginuwine] relaying the same message that your company commander is relaying, I think it really hits home- this is not just important to the Army but to America," said Capt. Richard Greenly, a plans officer, assigned to U.S. Army Japan.
Americans, Japanese and the other nationalities represented in the audience sang along to the songs.
"Many more Japanese people than I expected knew all the words to every Ginuwine song. As a kid in Iowa, I would have never thought there are Japanese people who listened and sing the same music as me, and are just as big of a fan as I am," said Greenly.
"From my experience, when the Japanese community comes to our events, they want to hear the music; but they also want to interact with the Soldiers, their families and other Americans on Camp Zama," he said.
U.S. Army Garrison Japan Command Sgt. Major Rosalba Dumont-Carrion said music brings people together.
"The Americans and Japanese came together in friendship and it was amazing," said Dumont-Carrion. "I saw Soldiers who had never met each other; but by the time the festival was over, they had exchanged numbers."
According to the DFMWR USAG Japan acting director, Rhonda Hunter, this event was a Camp Zama partnership with support from various departments and agencies on Camp Zama centered on "bringing our friends beyond the gates together with our Army and other military communities and families."
Stearns played a significant role in the booking of the artists willing to perform overseas at a much lower cost than industry standard. He explained industry standard would have cost DFMWR more than $300,000 to book this event, but it only cost a little over $100,000.
"We just want to thank our Soldiers who are over here fighting for our freedoms, because without [them], none of this would be possible," said Stearns.
The music festival also included a bi-league preseason match of Yokohama B-Corsairs vs. Earth Friends Tokyo Z- reportedly the first time a professional team has played on a U.S. military installation- as well as a flea market and a variety of food booths.
The festival concluded with a fireworks show.
According to the DFMWR's philosophy, "Soldiers are entitled to the same quality of life as is afforded the society they are pledged to defend. Keeping an Army ready to fight and win takes more than hard work and training. Soldiers need a balance of work and play."
The DFMWR's mission is to create and maintain "first choice" MWR products and services for America's Army, essential to a ready, self-reliant force.
The Army's investment in delivering the highest quality programs and services - from family, child and youth programs to recreation, sports, entertainment, travel and leisure activities- reflects its commitment to Soldiers, families, civilians and retirees.