School bands unite in Inaugural Upcountry Music Festival

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Photo by Hoku Krueger

Seabury Hall band director Mr. Richie Franco conducts the mass band at the Inaugural Upcountry Music Festival on Friday, March 30, 2012 at the King Kekaulike Gymnasium. Bands from Kamehameha Schools Maui High School, Seabury Hall, King Kekaulike High School and Kalama Intermediate School each performed pieces individually and joined together at the end of the concert to play six mass numbers.

By Hoku Krueger, news co-editor

PUKALANI – King Kekaulike High School hosted the Inaugural Upcountry Music Festival on Friday, March 20, 2012, in the King Kekaulike Gymnasium. The concert featured bands from Kamehameha Schools Maui High School, Seabury Hall, King Kekaulike High School and Kalama Intermediate School.

“The concert was pretty good, but the fellowship was the most important part,” said Mr. Ed Queja, Kalama Intermediate School band director.

Seabury Hall opened the concert with selections from The Rolling Stones and “Play That Funky Music” by Robert Parissi.

The KSM Pop Rock Band followed with jazzy arrangements of “Call Me,” written by Debbie Harry and originally performed by Blondie, and “Pick Up the Pieces,” by Roger Ball.

Nā Aliʻi Big Band then performed “Stro’s Place,” by Carl Strommen, and to the crowd’s delight, “Theme from Family Guy,” by David Zuckerman, Seth MacFarlane and Walter Murphy.

The S.E. Kalama Band, the largest band at the concert, played next, opening with “Battlestar,” by Chris Bernotas. They finished with “Apparitions,” by Brian Balmages, and “Crazy Cartoons,” by Robert Sheldon.

The KSM Concert Band took the stage with “Chimera,” by Vince Grass, and “Selections from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” composed by Alexandre Desplat and arranged by Michael Story.

The KKHS Wind Ensemble closed the individual band portion of the concert with “Journey Through the Camphor Tree,” a selection of songs from the popular animated films of Hayao Miyazaki, by Joe Hisaishi and arranged by Mr. Casey Nagata, the band director.

The students then took a break from performing to rearrange their seats and become a single band. Together, the students performed six songs, including “Just Dance,” by Stefani Germanova, and “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris.

Featured performer, Richard Tadaki, former band director for ʻIao Intermediate School, played the bass for the KSM Pop Rock Band and Nā Aliʻi Big Band.

“Mr. Nagata didn’t have a bass player so he asked me if I’d fill in,” Mr. Tadaki said.

Kalama Intermediate School was the only middle school that performed in the music festival.

“I felt kind of nervous at first playing with all of the high schoolers, but as the concert went on, I just kind of flowed,” said Elizabeth Konohia, Kalama 7th grade flute player.

This first ever upcountry band concert was put together by the band directors from each of the upcountry schools.

“Mr. [Siuai] Laufou and I have spoken a few times, so we were very excited to be able to do this, like four little school kids,” said Mr. Richie Franco, Seabury Hall Band Director.

“It was a joint effort. I wanted to do a concert with Kalama and since Kamehameha and Seabury Hall don’t really get to perform with the other schools, I thought it would be great to include them as well,” Mr. Nagata said.

Every year, the King Kekaulike band participates in the Maui District High School Band Festival, a concert in which bands representing high schools from around the island perform together.

Kamehameha Maui and Seabury Hall do not participate in this concert because of the small size of their bands.

“It was really great performing with the other schools. I finally felt accepted,” said Maya Okamura, Seabury Hall freshman French horn player.

Already friends, the band directors found it easy to work together.

“It’s like a fraternity. I ran into Mr. Laufou at Foodland, and we stayed there for two hours talking about the concert,” Mr. Queja said.

Each school practiced their individual songs during class time. The mass band performed together for the first time about an hour before the concert. For the KSM students, it was the first time they had seen the sheet music for the mass numbers.

While the concert itself went smoothly, arriving at the final date was not. The band directors met up several times to select the music and set the date, a task that was difficult because many of the students in the bands also play sports.

“One of our biggest obstacles was sports. I was missing 12 students because of conflicting events. I know Kamehameha was missing five or six people. King Kekaulike’s tenor saxophone player walked in during the middle of the concert,” Mr. Franco said.

A track meet, a baseball game and golf matches were several of the events that also occurred that night.

Because KS Maui’s next performance will be at their high school graduation on May 28, this was the seniors’ last time performing at the high school level.

“I’m pretty excited that I’m pau with band,” said Kalani Tanouye, KSM senior percussionist. This was his 7th year playing with the band. Other Kamehameha seniors who performed in the concert were ʻukulele player Palani Santos and percussionist Shane Clark. Bass player Kamahoe Bal is also a senior, but was absent from the concert Friday.

Overall, each of the band directors was happy with the way the concert turned out during its inaugural occurrence, and look forward to ridding it of the little glitches before next year’s concert.

“For next year, we want to have a theme or an idea to go about,” KSM band director Mr. Laufou said.