By Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsJanuary 31, 2020
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Jan. 31, 2020) -- An annual holiday concert featuring U.S. Army musicians and held at a Japanese concert hall that neighbors the installation reflects onstage the fruition of years of bilateral cooperation, the band's commander said.
The holiday-themed "An American Concert" was held Dec. 20 and 21, 2019, at Zama Harmony Hall in Zama City. It was the seventh annual staging of the show.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Chapman, commander of the USARJ Band, said the event was a success because he could see the largely Japanese audience was enjoying itself in a way that felt almost participatory.
One of the reasons he feels the concert has been so successful for seven years, Chapman said, is that both hosts begin planning the event in January for the next show 11 months down the road. This nearly yearlong effort of teamwork and cooperation from both the band and the city help to make the concert "as perfect as possible," Chapman said.
"It is important to make sure that we give back to the community that we live in, in order to build a partnership," Chapman said. "It means a lot to us to share a little piece of home."
The friendship between Camp Zama, Zama City and the Zama City Music Association is so strong that Chapman said he believes the annual concert will continue long into the future.=
Sgt. Jini Zuniga, a flutist with the U.S. Army Japan Band, said it has been "an amazing experience" to partner with Japanese musicians and to be part of a bilateral event.
"This was one of the first concerts that I have been part of where I really felt musically fulfilled by the event itself," Zuniga said.
Putting on shows like the holiday concert demonstrates that the Camp Zama community is appreciative of its host-nation neighbors, and the concert allows both the Army installation and the city to build a closer relationship, Zuniga said.
"I think music is a really great vessel for [building a relationship], because it transcends a lot of barriers that we have through language and culture," Zuniga said. "I hope our audience knows we can share beautiful experiences together through music, despite our different backgrounds."
Junko Tanabe, the general manager for the Zama City mayor's executive office, said her team has already begun planning and coordinating this month for the next holiday concert in December.
The concert is so popular that the city has to hold a lottery for tickets for the little more than 2,300 seats available, Tanabe said. Last year, there were a record-high 4,906 lottery entrants for the event.
As proof that the audience enjoys the performance, Tanabe said she needs only to see the smiles on their faces and hear the positive feedback she receives after the show.
Hosting and bilateral events like the holiday concert, and having both U.S. and Japanese participation, cements the notion that the U.S. Army and Zama City are two halves of the same community, Tanabe said.
"It's the teamwork, and the fact that we both put time, energy and passion into this event, that helps cultivate a good relationship between Zama City and Camp Zama," Tanabe said.