The trip to Japan begins not when we board the plane, but rather 17 years ago, when Master Sgt. Shawn Herndon was a sergeant stationed at Camp Zama, Japan. While in Japan, Shawn heard about the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force Central Band (JGSDF), and thought he should check them out. Shawn went to a performance and was impressed from the beginning. He struck up a friendship with their principal clarinetist, Sgt. Major Noguchi, and began to collaborate with Japanese musicians from the Central Band.
Eventually, Shawn landed in the West Point Band, and wanted very much to play a joint concert with both great bands. He worked off and on over the course of his entire time at West Point to make the performance happen. In 2012, musicians from the Central Band came to West Point to play two joint concerts with us. The performances were full of energy and life. We were finally able to return the favor and join the Central Band on stage at Sumida Triphony Hall in Tokyo. The completion of the collaboration is the highlight of Master Sgt. Herndon’s career.
Words and images by Sgt. 1st Class Sam Kaestner