III MEF band rocks annual Christmas concert
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan — As the Christmas lights twinkled across the stage, and the soft hum of Christmas music buzzed through the air, the III Marine Expeditionary Force band prepared to take the stage for their annual Christmas concert Dec. 10 at the Kubasaki High School auditorium on Camp Foster.
The concert showcased a variety of traditional Christmas songs, including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “The First Noel” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” Each song featured solo vocalists and instrumental artists within the band.
“The concert was arranged to give back to the community and to bring out some holiday spirit,” said Staff Sgt. Carlos Garza, Jr., platoon sergeant and flute musician with the III MEF band. “Most of us are away from home, so the band tried to get everyone from the different services in Okinawa together to join us under one roof for a night to share in some traditional Christmas music.”
Okinawa community members were invited to join in the fun of the free concert and to experience a different side of the military, according to Garza, a Laredo, Texas, native. The Marines in the band are friendly and interact with everyone who comes to the performances, he said.
The Christmas concert has been an annual tradition for the band since the 1970s, according to Sgt. Michael J. Petrovich, trumpet instrumentalist with the III MEF band. The event features different ensembles within the band every year.
“A typical band for a concert has 50 Marines, (and) within it we have several ensembles,” said Petrovich a Concord, California native. “This year we are showcasing our jazz band.”
To prepare for the concert, the band rehearsed for many hours a day over the course of several weeks, according to Garza. They still had performances for prior engagements to tend to, like the 42 Marine Corps birthday balls where they were scheduled to perform.
“The Marines’ hard work and dedication pays off,” said Garza. “The people who come to our performances always show their gratitude and enjoyment, and that makes the long hours worthwhile.”