19 September 2019
New Zealand Army Band’s Staff Sergeant Nick Johnson is in East Timor training the Falantil-Forças de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL) musicians as part of the New Zealand Defence Force’s Mutual Assistance Programme.
Staff Sergeant Johnson said his main focus has been to prepare the band to perform during the East Timorese Government’s 20th anniversary of the International Forces East Timor (INTERFET) deployment commemoration in Dili on Friday, 20 September.
As well as providing musical expertise, it was also an opportunity to check in with the progress made by the musicians, Staff Sergeant Johnson said.
“We host an annual nine-month-long residential musicianship course at Burnham Military Camp for military bands from the Pacific and South-East Asia supported by the programme,” he said.
“We work them through a syllabus that’s connected to the Royal Schools of Music, so they sit exams to gain qualifications and learn very quickly.”
Second Sargeant Cesar Ximenes is one of the F-FDTL band members who has completed the residential course at Burnham.
“It was fantastic to go to New Zealand to train - when I went there, I hadn’t learned musical notation before. Staff Sergeant Johnson was my teacher and my friend and I’m really happy to see him in East Timor,” Second Sargeant Ximenes said.
Staff Sergeant Johnson said military bands were important because they provided a cultural identity for defence forces.
“It’s our bands that provide so much pride in our military heritage. Within the Pacific and South-East Asia bands are viewed as a really important part of their defence forces,” he said.
Seeing the improvements the musicians have made since he has been with the F-FDTL band in East Timor has given him a huge amount of personal satisfaction.
“That’s the benefit of the residential programme,” he said. “You don’t just train one person, you end up training five or six as they share their knowledge.”
An NZDF contingent is attending the 20th anniversary of the INTERFET deployment in Dili on 20 September.
The commemorations, hosted by the East Timorese Government, mark the deployment of the multi-national force to stabilise East Timor and to control its borders after violence erupted following the 1999 referendum for independence from Indonesia.