By Lance Cpl. John S. Gargano
Marine Corps Installations Pacific
Student musicians struck a harmonic chord with Marines during the 2013 Department of Defense Education Activity Pacific Far East Honor Music Festival April 15-19.
Members of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band collaborated with students from DODEA Pacific high schools to help advance the students’ musical abilities.
The festival featured an orchestra and choir performance, and involved DODEA Pacific participants from Guam, Korea, Okinawa and mainland Japan.
The students worked alongside Marines in the III MEF Band hall to improve their musical abilities. Throughout the week, students worked closely with the band, honing their musical talents in preparation for the culminating April 19 concert at Kubasaki High School.
“They taught everything from basic musicianship to advanced techniques,” said Kevin Hanson, the director of music at Zama American High School, Camp Zama, Japan. “A lot of these students do not have the opportunity to take private lessons, but through the festival, they can work with highly trained musicians to learn new tips and develop techniques that help inspire them to be better musicians.”
Participation in the music festival is highly selective. To earn the chance to attend, students had to first be accepted into the honor band, which is comprised of the most talented musicians from 12 DODEA high schools in the Pacific region.
“Students from each school, whether they are band, choir or orchestra, audition for a spot in their group,” said Hanson. “The students are selected to staff each of these groups, but they must maintain a good grade-point average.”
The Marines provided the students with hands-on training while enhancing their musical skills.
“We get specialized help from professional musicians,” said Nathan H. Rosenblatt, a high school senior and participant in the festival. “The advice we get from them is one of a kind; you would have to pay a tutor to get that kind of special help, and we get it for free.”
Working with the Marines allowed students to pinpoint goals for improvement that would otherwise only be realized in private lessons, according to Rosenblatt.
“The entire experience has been great,” said Jonathan A. Pickens, a high school senior and festival participant. “In past years we did not have as much involvement from military bands, so it was really helpful to receive outside help from people who have experienced certain instruments for a long period of time.”
The festival also gave students a chance to get to know a variety of different people who have the same interests, and it refined their skills to a higher level than they would be able to achieve in a normal classroom environment, according to Pickens.
“It is in Marines’ natures to show off what they know, what they do, and what their job is,” said Chief Warrant Officer Stephen B. Giove, the officer in charge of the III MEF Band. “It is a win situation for both parties. The Marines get to show what they do, and the students get to learn how to become better musicians, which is the purpose of the festival.”
While students expanded their musical abilities, Marines exercised a critical component of leadership: effective communication. By listening to the unique experiences of each individual student musician and explaining how to improve performance on a given instrument, Marines passed on the tools students need to focus on their goals.
The festival did not only improve the communication skills of the Marines; it also allowed junior Marines the opportunity to lead.
“It gives some of the younger Marines a chance to take charge,” said Gunnery Sgt. Shannon L. Farquhar, the enlisted conductor for the III MEF band. “We have anywhere from two to four Marines per section acting as mentors, and it gives an opportunity for corporals and sergeants to take ownership of their experiences as they share with the DODEA students.”
Students left the festival having increased their musical skills.
“Anytime we can get professional musicians, who have that love and that passion of playing, to mentor and work with our young music students is fantastic,” said Hanson.