Friendship through music: Couple bridges international gap through music
Music is a universal language that resonates and unites people from different backgrounds, capable of building new comradeship and friendships while strengthening existing ones. Throughout the world, people think and speak in different languages while looking at life through various views. Having a common appreciation for music can help bridge the gap between diverse cultures.
For Corey and Shiori Danni who tied the knot in May 2018, music plays a big part in each of their lives. They are both active-duty service members playing brass instruments in military bands, but they are serving different countries.
“Although there are obstacles in language, there is no such thing in music. Music is a wonderful medium to establish friendship,” said Shiori Danni, a leading private in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
Sgt. Corey Danni, a euphonium player with the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band, arrived at Camp Foster, Okinawa in 2016. Corey earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from the State University of New York at Fredonia. He has taught music at Tonawanda Middle School and High School, Tonawanda, New York, and has coached a marching band at Lancaster High School, in Lancaster, New York before joining the service. Realizing he wanted to go back to musical performance, the Buffalo, New York, native, decided to join the Marine Corps where he could serve his country and play euphonium in tandem.
“The euphonium is rare. It had a strong tradition with military performances during the American Civil War. Since that tradition stuck around, euphonium players are highly sought after in military bands,” said Corey, who started out learning how to play the trumpet and eventually transitioned to playing his current instrument for the past 14 years.
Shiori first came to Okinawa in 2012 as a graduate student studying French horn at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts. Upon receiving her master’s degree in music, she went to pursue a career in which she could play and serve others – leading her to join the JGSDF. In 2015, Shiori, an Awaji Island, Hyogo prefecture, native, was assigned to the JGSDF 15th Brigade Band on Camp Naha.
“As much as I enjoy what I do, I also enjoy the rewarding sensation I get when I hear the audience applaud after our performances,” said Shiori, who played the piano growing up and has played French horn for the past 16 years.
Corey and Shiori first met while getting fried chicken and waffles for lunch with mutual friends who were also band members, in January 2017 at Chatan Town, Okinawa.
“I was immediately drawn to Shiori,” said Corey, who appreciates learning and experiencing Japanese culture. Shiori, likewise, felt an unexplainable connection with Corey when she first met him.
Although there were language and culture differences between the couple, they overcame those obstacles through interests and appreciation for each other’s unique background.
The key to a good relationship is to have a lifelong commitment to one another, to respect each other, and be grateful at all times, according to both Corey and Shiori.
Military musicians, like Corey and Shiori, travel around playing at events to connect with local communities. Sometimes bridging gaps with other countries may not be easy, but music breaks barriers.
“As a military musician, I am expected to help accomplish the Marine Corps’ mission through the use of music, which leads to building better friendships and relationships with other countries and cultures,” said Corey.
Performing in military uniforms is not always easy. The nature of the uniforms may bring a mystic or even stern aura, but the performances humanize band members which soften any potential tension, according to Shiori.
“Before joining the SDF, I had a rigid image of service members wearing uniforms. But after joining the service, I am proud to be wearing the uniform as an SDF member, especially when I’m playing the Japanese National Anthem. I realized that military uniforms should not interrupt the audience from enjoying the music. And for spectators to enjoy the music, I need to show them that I am enjoying playing the music first,” said Shiori.
While Corey and Shiori typically play with their respective bands, there is one performance they take part in together. The JGSDF 15th Brigade Band and the III MEF Band have been developing their bilateral relationship through music over the years, most recently as they hosted their 23rd Annual Combined Band Concert, Sept. 8 in Okinawa Civic Hall, Okinawa City.
The combined band concerts are to strengthen the Japan-U.S. relationship and express the friendship that the countries have today through music, according to JGSDF Capt. Ken Yamashita, the officer in charge for 15th Brigade Band.
“The combined concert reinforces our commitment to the Okinawa residents. We are guests here. We gain a lot of cultural capital here through performances,” said Chief Warrant Officer Andres Navarro, the officer in charge for the III MEF Band.
The audience members composed of Okinawa residents and American spectators may not have spoken the same language at the combined concert. But once the music hit them, the vibe reverberated through the air as their synchronized clapping got louder with enthusiasm exhibiting the bilateral alliance we have today.
To some, music may be something that inspires, encourages, and provides motivation to themselves. To others, it may be part of their lifestyle. According to Corey, music is meditative, whereas Shiori defines it as part of her everyday life. Although music may hold different meanings to the Dannis, it still has established a significant foundation for both of them.
Music binds those with different backgrounds and cultures, and those who speak different languages. Music can act as a universal tool which creates friendships and new alliance.
The Japan-U.S. relationship, whether seen at the community or international levels, can be portrayed through the Dannis and the combined concerts. Efforts such as these friendship and cultural exchanges increase mutual understanding, accepting differences, being respectful and showing gratitude, bringing harmony to existing and future relationships.