Students Play For The Love Of Jazz

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - February 28, 2007
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Highlands Intermediate School band director John Iyoki said that as far as he knows, his is the only intermediate jazz band that functions as an in-school class.

“Most jazz bands do it after school,” noted Iyoki, who has been band director for eight years.

The 21-member band of eighth-graders perform in various concerts (one student put a video of their winter concert at Waiau Elementary on YouTube) and will take part in the Parade of Jazz bands April 14 on the Ala Moana Center stage, and the Spring Concert May 26 at the Pearl City High School auditorium.

“Some of the favorite numbers are Sing Sing Sing, Moon Dance, and Lil Darling,” Iyoki said. “All the members who are in the jazz band are also a part of our symphonic band.”

The jazz band players jam on saxophones, trumpets, drums, guitar and bass. The multi-talented students have learned two instruments. For example, the jazz band tenor sax player does oboe in the symphonic band.

“(Jazz) is a completely different form of music,” Iyoki explained. “It’s a completely different way of playing. Jazz (unlike symphonic numbers) is more related to what they hear on radio and TV.”

In addition to participating in two band classes, the students rehearse after school four days a week. Some of them even play in the Pearl City Community Jazz Band which is comprised of band directors, Royal Hawaiian Band members, a plumber and a retired postman.

One of the highlights of the jazz band’s year was meeting Matt Catingub and his Hawaii orchestra. The students played a number for some of Catingub’s musicians, and then the renowned director picked up a student’s saxophone and played for the youths.

“The students’ mouths were so wide open,” recalled Iyoki.“It was a real eye-opener. They were mesmerized.

“The students have now been playing a little ditty called Salt Peanuts they learned from Matt - every day since then. ”

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