U.S. Pacific Fleet Band Brings Jazz to Papua New Guinea
KOKOPO, Papua New Guinea - The U.S. Pacific Fleet Band performed in the Kokopo Public Market here Sept. 4 in support of Pacific Partnership 2010.
Those present for the show included the U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, the Honorable Teddy Taylor; Chief of Staff for Pacific Command, Rear Adm. Robin Watters; Pacific Partnership 2010 Mission Commander, Commodore Lisa Franchetti; Commanding Officer of HMAS Tobruk (L 50), Cmdr. Paul Scott; and Commanding Officer of USS Vandegrift (FFG 48), Cmdr. Steven Prescott, as well up to 2,000 folks taking a break from the busy Saturday market.
The band, which cross-decked to HMAS Tobruk (L 50) as part of a contingent of 64 U.S. Pacific Partnership 2010 participants, arrived in the East New Britain province ready to share with the locals of the Kokopo District the sounds of a brass band – a first for many.
The band played in the courtyard of the area’s main market, where many local vendors were selling fruit, vegetables, fish, bread, food, flowers, and handicrafts such carriers made of coconut leaves, jewelry, masks, and woven purses. The concert’s set-up was new for the band - the first time the 11- member team played in the middle of their audience.
“It was a unique area, the courtyard area&ellips;you’re surrounded by concert-goers and everywhere you look in every direction, it’s packed in, shoulder-to-shoulder,” said Musician 1st Class Eric Snitzer. “We have played in many different countries, and it’s always a pleasant surprise when you see the crowd connect with the music we play for them.”
The locals enjoyed the music, and a few were brave enough to get up and dance. They weren’t alone as about 30 members from the U.S. Navy and the Australian Defence Force, all living aboard Tobruk, danced and clapped to the music. Seaman Gap Year Grace Rounds is stationed with the ship and had never seen a performance like this once.
“They were very good,” said Rounds. “They were very interactive with the crowd and fun.”
The band is set to perform one more concert at the Kokopo Market, as well as participate in community service visits to area schools, all part of Pacific Partnership 2010.
Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional partnerships. Papua New Guinea is the last of six countries to be visited under Pacific Partnership 2010. USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) visited Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste while USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) visited Palau.
The band members are all looking forward to the other performances.
“Once we got ‘em going, they really loved it. That’s what we live for; that’s why we do it,” said Snitzer.
The performance concluded with Taylor personally congratulating each performer.