Subscribe

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The lack of high school football games doesn’t stop Japanese from forming marching bands.

Neither did transportation budget constraints stop the Nile C. Kinnick High School’s band from marching with them this year.

Kinnick’s Red Devils Marching Band is the first American band to participate in all-Japanese competitions, according to band director Jonathan Parker.

Their next performance is Saturday’s All-Japan Marching Band and Baton Twirling Contest at the Saitama Super Arena outside Tokyo.

It will be the student-musicians’ third venture into the Japanese world of marching bands, and they are still ironing out the kinks, Parker said.

“Since we were the very first, they weren’t sure what to do with us,” he said.

The band bronze-medaled its first show, but it won’t be competing directly against Japanese bands this weekend, Parker said.

Parker and school officials are working with Japanese officials to create an international class that will allow them to compete, and until then, the band will be more of a “guest exhibition.”

Past band directors opted to concentrate on the football games and parades, but Parker said he wanted to get the band’s 55 students out and about.

“It took a lot of work … and it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It gives the kids a little more to shoot for and a taste of what it would be like in the United States.”

Without the influence of American football, Japanese school bands start practicing in April for competition and school assemblies.

But competitions here “are every bit as elaborate” as those in the States, Parker said.

“Marching band has changed so much in the last 20 years,” he said. “Now, going to competitions is like seeing 10 minutes of a Broadway musical.”

Kinnick’s marching band is playing a selection of contemporary jazz this year, including “Minor Case of the Blues” and “Birdland.”

The band has received a lot of support from the school, even during times of transportation budget constraints, Parker said.

Moving the band around — students, uniforms, instruments — requires two vans and two trucks, but the school “made sure they arrive” to every gig, Parker said.

The Yokosuka Music Boosters also raised $11,000 for the band this year, he said.

Saturday’s competition runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Kinnick’s showtime starts at 5:27 p.m.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up