RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Pearl City High School marching band, shown here rehearsing last month with band director Chad Kamei, is one of two American bands chosen to perform in the Beijing Olympic International Youth Festival 2008. CLICK FOR LARGE
Pearl City High band plays a big stage: China
The Pearl City High School marching band joined musicians from around the world yesterday to perform on Beijing's busy downtown Wang Fu Jing Street.
The Chargers band is in China as one of two American bands among 20 youth music groups chosen to perform in the Beijing Olympic International Youth Festival 2008. This week's performances -- including one atop the Great Wall -- are a prelude to the 2008 Olympic Games and involve about 1,500 participants from different countries.
"It says all the hard work of the past years has come to fruition with something as special as this," said Gerald Suyama, former Pearl City High School principal of 20 years who retired last month. "Being in the Olympics is kind of special."
Chad Kamei, the band director, said about $10,000 in donations was given to the band from local businesses. "The community has been very supportive to us," said Kamei, who just finished his first year as band director.
Kamei is the second band director after Michael Nakasone, who led the band to several international events in Canada and Japan and performances on the mainland. Nakasone became band director of the Royal Hawaiian Band in 2005.
"It's always hard stepping into these big shoes left by Michael Nakasone," Kamei said.
This summer, the band had to eliminate its band camp to make time for the trip. When they return on Wednesday, they will have a five-day break before heading back to school.
Christian Masuda, a sophomore who plays the sousaphone, wondered how he would perform during China's monsoon season.
"How are we going to make it through 100 percent humidity and 120 degrees?" he asked.
Masuda, who is part Chinese, hoped to learn a few things about his Chinese ancestors.
Alison Christy, a chaperone on the trip, said the students worked hard selling candy, chili tickets and beef sticks to raise the $2,600 needed for each student for the trip.
"I'm not sure the kids realize how big it is," said Christy, whose son is a senior and marching French horn player in the band. "It's an experience that no other band in the island is going to get to do -- to play on the Great Wall."
The students will perform on the Great Wall and in the Olympic Cultural Square. They will also visit the Forbidden City -- the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties -- Tiananmen Square and the 2008 Olympic stadium.
Tenor saxophonist and sophomore Erika Knudson said it has been a challenge to learn new songs and recall songs from last fall that they will perform in China.
But she was still excited.
"I really want to go to the zoo and see the panda bears," she said.