AND THE BANDS PLAY ON

Whoever said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts might have been talking about a marching band. Like little nutcracker soldiers, students strut onto the field, neatly uniformed

Rasa Fournier
Wednesday - November 21, 2007
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The Roosevelt High band
The Roosevelt High band gets down for a Russian dance, and brings down the house

Whoever said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts might have been talking about a marching band. Like little nutcracker soldiers, students strut onto the field, neatly uniformed, stepping precisely. Suddenly the air bursts with the triumphant swelling chorus of the tuba, saxophone, French horn, drums - rousing melodies evoking pride in the students, their schools, this festival.

It’s Veterans Day and, fittingly, the island’s finest high school bands are taking turns raising their instruments in glorious harmony as they march across the stadium’s football greens for the University of Hawaii’s annual Meadow Gold Rainbow Invitational Marching Band Festival. Keeping with this 28-year tradition, carloads of family, friends and marching band alumni pour into Aloha Stadium to watch the students perform.


“This is an exhibition that gives bands from across the island an opportunity to show what they’ve done throughout the school semester,” explains Geoffrey Alexander, a UH Japanese language major and second-year marching band student. “Occasionally we even have bands from outer islands. Last year we had a band from Maui and also bands from Minnesota and California.”

The Castle band gives the crowd a serving of Grease
The Castle band gives the crowd a serving of Grease

Alexander greets the steady flow into the stadium with a lively smile, holding up programs for sale. In just a couple of hours he’ll be on the field displaying his musical expertise as a clarinet player in the UH Rainbow Warrior Marching Band’s grand finale.

“This is my second year in UH marching band, but I’ve been watching this competition since my brother was in high school,” says Alexander, whose brother was a clarinet player and then drum major at Aiea High before attending UH.

“My brother is now a band director at Kapolei High School,” adds Alexander. “He’s here tonight, helping out with the marching band.”

Alexander followed in his brother’s footsteps as a clarinet player and then drum major at Aiea High and now as part of the UH ensemble.

Marching on the field is second nature for him, and he loves every second of it. “It’s a blast, it’s a thrill every time,” he gushes.

The Kailua band circles up
The Kailua band circles up

Small bands of 20 students and others as big as 250 take over the field, one after another, dressed in their school colors, some festooned in gloves, capes and helmets with feathered plumes. The drum majors (student conductors) stand on a raised platform gesticulating wildly, their entire bodies dramatic conduits to the rhythm. The band’s color guard accents the music with a visual display of flag twirling, dancing and theatrical stunts.

“Training starts during the summer with many, many hours of practice,” says Arnold Alconcel, Castle High’s band director of 12 years. “It starts with just teaching them the basics - how to march, because we don’t normally walk the way we march (he laughs), especially in Hawaii where we walk so casually. Marching is done a specific way so it looks uniform - the way they step, the size of their step, their posture - everything about it has to be taught, and that’s a long process. Getting them to march in step is also a long process, because the majority of students favor their right leg - in marching, all of the strong beats are on our left leg.”

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