Defence Force Musicians On Song In Vanuatu

22 October 2013
New Zealand Army Band bandmaster, Staff Sergeant Phil Johnston, puts the Vanuatu Mobile Force Band through its paces.

A deployment with a difference is underway with two New Zealand Army Band musicians based in Vanuatu to train members of the Pacific nation’s police force band.

Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Phil Johnston and Sergeant (SGT) Callum Hewson were armed with instruments, sheet music and a French dictionary when they left for Vanuatu earlier this month.

“French is one of the main languages in Vanuatu, and we’ll also have to get used to driving on the right-hand side of the road,” SGT Hewson said. “It’s going to be a great experience for all involved.”

The trip is funded by the Mutual Assistance Programme (MAP) and is designed to strengthen the ties between the NZ Defence Force and Vanuatu Mobile Force by providing band training.

SGT Hewson, who plays an E Flat Tenor Horn, said similar training exercises with other military groups occur regularly under the MAP programme.

 “A lot of countries don’t have dedicated musicians in the police and find it hard to practise alongside all of their other duties, so hopefully this opportunity will be really worthwhile for them.”

SGT Hewson and SSGT Johnston, who plays a Double B Bass and conducts the NZ Army Band, plan to assess and tailor individual programmes for each musician.

“How much they take on board is up to the individual but we will do everything we can to assist their personal and group performance,” SGT Hewson said.

More than 25 Vanuatu personnel have signed up for the three week Kiwi-led tuition which will culminate in a waterfront concert hosted by the New Zealand High Commission.

“We have already had students from Vanuatu coming to New Zealand to train so I know a bit about what to expect. We are both looking forward to making a difference.”


For further information, please contact Defence Communications Group on 021 487 980.

This page was last reviewed on 5 November 2013.