Strengthening alliances with music
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific performed at the 2015 Japan Self-Defense Force Marching Festival at the Nippon Budokan Arena in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 13-15.
The three-day festival featured performances from 13 different bands, representing three different nations - the U.S., Japan, and South Korea.
"It is an honor to take part in the festival," said Maj. Cristina Moore Urrutia, commander and conductor of the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific.
The PACAF band last participated in the annual festival 10 years ago.
"For our band to be invited in this 70th anniversary of the end of war between our two countries is really an honor and shows how far we've come as allies in the past decades," Moore Urrutia said. "Being here and representing our nation to the local population here in the downtown Tokyo region gives us a chance to reach out to those who aren't able to see us on a regular basis."
The band prepared months in advance for their performance. In the week leading to the festival, the band took part in a several day rehearsal at Camp Akasa, Japan.
"It was a great chance to not only play with, but also watch all of the different bands and the expertise they displayed," said Moore Urrutia. "To have all of us together in one place provided an opportunity for us to come together and talk about the similarities and differences between our bands and our missions."
The Band of the Pacific, which features a variety of ensembles, was the only group which did not possess a marching element. This potential hurdle to be entertaining to the audience was viewed by band members themselves as a chance to stand out and offer a unique yet engaging performance.
"Ten years ago when the AF band was involved with the Budokon Festival, we were able to bring other AF band members to supplement the unit and put on a marching display," Moore Urrutia said. "This time, due to budget constraints, we weren't able to able to bring anyone else to join us. We thought hard about what we could bring to the table that would set us apart."
The band decided that it was important to them that the Budokon audience took a bit of American culture and the impression of partnership with Japan away from this event.
"Jazz is quite the American tradition and one of the most original forms of American music. By combining traditional jazz and Japanese pieces, we hope to show through music the friendship we have with our host nation."
The band also performed with the Japan Ground and Air Self-Defense Forces throughout the festival, highlighting the U.S. - Japan partnership.
"The festival was my first opportunity to meet and play alongside the Air Force band," said Lt. Col. Katsuo Mizushina, commander and conductor of the Central Band of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. "It was a great opportunity to create new relationships."
For the last 35 years, the festival has invited U.S. military bands to come and perform at what originated as a JSDF only performance.
"It's important for us to show the working relationship we have with U.S. partners her in Japan," said Mizushina. "Music is the common language we all share. For our nations to come together and perform helps to reinforce our bond as allies."