Kamehameha Maui Hosts 2nd Annual Upcountry Band Festival


Kamehameha Schools Maui’s 8th grade band tunes up the night at the 2nd annual Upcountry Music Festival March 8 at Kahekili Gym.

Landon Ballesteros

By Landon Ballesteros, news writer

Four upcountry schools combined forces in the 2nd Annual Upcountry Music Festival Thursday at KS Maui’s Kahekili Gym. They played rehearsed numbers, improvised music and some music for the first time together.

While the schools had practiced some of their own numbers individually, students performed the mass numbers by sight reading the music, that is, seeing and playing the music for the first time that night.

“Sight-reading every single song was challenging,” KSM junior trumpet player Justin Fernandez said.

The concert opened up with KS Maui’s middle school 8th grade band, performing Hawaiian-themed songs, such as Brian Balmages’s “Kilauea (The Volcano’s Fury).”

The KS Maui jazz rock ensemble performed next, opening with some improvised jazz and especially entertaining the crowd with an Earth Wind, and Fire dance mix.

Under the direction of Music Director Mr. Casey Nagata, King Kekaulike’s Nā Aliʻi Big Band took the lead next, playing classic swing music like “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

“My favorite song [from King Kekaulike] was ‘In the Mood’ [by Joe Garland],” Fernandez said.

The Kalama Intermediate Concert Band carried out three well-practiced performances, stunning the crowd with such young skill.  One highlight was the entertaining and informative speeches that introduced each speech. Their music director is Mr. Ed Queja.

Seabury Hall had the fans excited with music from Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as a Bob Marley tribute arranged by Zach Johnson-Franco, the son of Seabury Hall’s director, Mr. Richie Franco. Cole took just under a year to arrange the song during his junior and senior years of high school.

“The highlight of the night was playing Bob [Marley],” Mr. Franco said. “It was the first time it was played in front of non-Seabury people.”

The King Kekaulike Wind Ensemble performed a trio of Paris-inspired pieces from “Paris Sketches” by Martin Ellerby.

After one last performance by the KS Maui High School Concert Band, all four schools came together to perform six mass numbers.

They started off with two soothing songs, Robert Smith’s “Portsmouth Overture” and Sean O’Loughlin’s “Amazing Grace.” The tempo steadily grew as the bands performed Stan Jones’s “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” and Chuck Rio’s “Tequila.”

Mr. Laufou arranged the next song, Adele and Fraser T. Smith’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” featuring the schools’ violinists and KS Maui sophomore vocalist Destinee Murray.

Two hours later, the band got the crowd (and performers) up off their feet in their finale showstopper, Park Jae-Sang and Yoo Gun Hyung’s “Gangnam Style.” The King Kekaulike drummers entertained the crowd as they danced while drumming, while students in the sea of performers popped up to do the famous Gangnam Style dance moves.

“I think some of the challenges were some of the members that were not committed to practicing,” Mr. Laufou said. “It takes individual effort on that part. When they come together, they make great music.”

“This is a whole community event upcountry,” Mr. Franco said. “We get to feel accepted.”

There was no hint of the trouble that led up the concert being performed on the Kamehameha campus. After a scheduling conflict was discovered at the original location, King Kekaulike High School, Mr. Laufou was able to put everything in place to host the concert in Kahekili.

“Thanks to the middle school administration for really going all out and making this happen for us,” he said.

If you missed this one, don’t worry. There are several upcoming concerts for the bands, including KS Maui’s Band-O-Rama, which will be held at 7:00 p.m., April 9 at Keōpūolani Hale. The event is open to the public and free of charge.

This article was updated on 3/11. Update is italicized.