CYMBALS OF ALOHA
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Cymbalists with the Pearl City High School Marching Band run through a part of a number titled "Malaguena," part of a medley of songs included in a percussion feature for the band's upcoming performance in Pasadena, Calif., as part of the Tournament of Roses Parade.
Pearl City High's marching band will be part of the Tournament of Roses Parade
WHEN 16-YEAR-OLD Chad Tomas lifts his hefty baton in front of the Pearl City High School Marching Band and millions of viewers on Monday, it will be a first for him and his classmates.
But they have years of tradition to propel them along the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
What: Pearl City High School Marching Band, Tournament of Roses Parade
Where: Pasadena, Calif.
Showtime: Monday, 6 a.m. Hawaii time
Television station: HGTV
Band members: 198
Halau Hula Olana dancers: 38
Band director: Kent Sato
Kumu Hula: Howard and Olana Ai
"Just to be invited once is an achievement for any high school band, and this band's been invited six times," said band booster club President Eric Motoki, whose twin sons are in the band. "It says a lot for the program."
Over the years, the Pearl City Chargers marching band has also traveled to Tokyo to play in the Ginza parade and New York City for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Their last appearance at the Tournament of Roses was in 2000.
"I told these kids, 'You're here because the students before you put on the kind of performance that warrants the return of the band,'" said Principal Gerald Suyama, who flies out today with the group. "'Now you have to do the same thing for your younger brothers and sisters, so that the invitation keeps coming.'"
A million viewers are expected to line the parade route, and an estimated 40 million watch the show on television in the United States. The parade will be broadcast live on HGTV, starting at 6 a.m. Hawaii time Monday.
"The biggest challenge for us is that it's like 6 1/2 miles. We have to practice a lot to have the stamina for that," said Tomas, who used to play French horn before becoming the drum major, or leader, of the marching band.
Band director Kent Sato made the most of yesterday's final rehearsal in Pearl City. "Separate the eighth notes, and space the quarter notes," he called out, as students flowed in formation across the hot field, the roll of drums and blaze of horns reverberating across campus.
Sato, who has been with the Pearl City band program for 10 years, took over this year from Michael Nakasone after the longtime Pearl City bandmaster was chosen to lead the Royal Hawaiian Band.
"I've been at a bunch of different schools -- nobody has been able to generate the community support that this program has," Sato said. "They take care of so many things. It allows us to focus on the music and getting the students up to speed."
He added: "We've inherited a lot of benefits from Michael's tenure here. We're going to try to do our best to maintain it."
The 198-member band will perform the "Kohala March" and the "Hawaiian War Chant," with 38 dancers from Halau Hula Olana, which is led by kumu hula Howard and Olana Ai. Including parents, 354 people will be making the trip with the band. Best Buy recently contributed $5,000, which will cover the cost of cargo.
Yesterday's practice produced some last-minute questions from nervous students.
"How do I pack my horn?" asked one teenager, his forehead beading with sweat during a water break.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Pearl City band drummer Makana Domingo, center, stood at attention along with the rest of the drum line during practice Monday morning.
Answer: "Newspapers. And shake the case to make sure it doesn't move."
The marching band started practicing last June. They have given up most of their vacations for the band. And they've been selling a lot of chili and snack packs to raise $1,500 each to cover the cost of the trip.
"It's all about the music," said senior Nick Takara, who plays a five-drum set and leads the percussion section. "I just like the way the band sounds."
But the students learn more than music from their time with the band. They also learn teamwork.
"When you don't do an assignment for class, the person who suffers is you," pointed out Sato, the bandmaster. "When you don't do an assignment for band, the people who suffer are the people around you."
The band will perform in a parade at Disneyland this week and the Tournament of Roses Band Fest on Saturday, before Monday's big parade, where they'll bring up the rear. They fly home before the actual Rose Bowl on Wednesday, which pits the University of Southern California against the University of Texas.
But Hawaii will be back. Punahou School's marching band just got an invitation to take part in the 2007 Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena.