DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Roosevelt High School band has been invited to march in the New Year's Day parade in London. The brass section, shown practicing, includes trumpet players Lance Yamamoto, left, Sara Taketa, Liam Hilson, Alyssa Fujihara, Rachel Domingo, Anthony Aquino and Alex Nakashima. The trombone players are Kelsie Sugahara, left, Clifton "Junior" Imai, Landon Tsuda, Edison Lau and Layton Takaesu (baritone player partially hidden).
London calling Roosevelt
The high school band will parade in England on New Year's Day
As drum major, Clifton "Junior" Imai is responsible for leading 70 Roosevelt High School classmates through perhaps the most exhilarating experience of their young lives in the prestigious London New Year's Day Parade.
The senior, who also plays the trombone, describes the excitement, nerves and most of all the worry that comes with the responsibility.
"All of us work pretty hard. We want to be the best we can and represent the state and community well," said Imai.
Senior and saxophone player Jayson Okazaki echoed that sentiment. "I'm super-excited. ... It's nerve-wracking for me.
"Every so often I think over the music to make sure I have memorized everything. As section leader for the saxophone section, I memorize my part and make sure the others know theirs," said Okazaki.
The band will be among some 8,000 multinational performers in the 22nd annual 2-mile march, which often takes place in 20- to 30-degree temperatures. They will play the "Hawaii March" throughout the parade as it winds past historic landmarks including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
Dan Kirkby, a London spokesman, said the Roosevelt band came with glowing recommendations by a parade recruiter based on its award-winning record.
Gregg Abe, band director at the school for 21 years, said he received the invitation in February and does not know who recommended them.
Trophies are stacked two deep along the walls of the band practice room, and student photos line every inch of Abe's office, even the ceiling. The band has played in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and has toured Japan several times.
"Everyone likes Mr. Abe. He's everyone's favorite teacher. He's extremely patient with us even when we're struggling," according to Okazaki, one of many seniors who have been under Abe's tutelage for four years.
Okazaki cites the band's drive to do well as the reason Roosevelt was chosen to be in the parade. "We work hard. Mr. Abe has told us a countless number of times that he sees so much potential in us. We work so hard because we don't want to let him down, and we want to live up to his expectations."
Abe downplays his role: "It's not about me. It helps that I have really good students. They have a lot of self-discipline to begin with, so that makes my job much more manageable. I'm kind of just guiding them."
Sophomore percussionist Kristen Nakamura said Abe is constantly reminding them to practice the "three R's" -- be responsible, resourceful and respectful -- a Roosevelt motto.
Abe said he tells the band, "Whenever we're in uniform, people are critiquing you, regardless if you're playing or not. How they behave is so important."
Band members had to raise $3,500 apiece to make the trip. About 70 parents are accompanying the band to London. They leave Christmas morning and will stop in Paris for a few days before getting to London Dec. 30. They return to Hawaii Jan. 3.
The event will be beamed live via satellite to TV stations across the United States.