At top left and right, band members prepared for their performance on Wednesday, center.

The band is back in town -- Students get a thrill in the Tournament of Roses Parade

By Mary Vorsino

They sold barbecue chicken, washed cars and worked summer jobs. They organized bake sales, candy sales, a jog-a-thon and a carnival.

Since April the 400 students in the Hawaii All-State Band and their 230 chaperones have held fund-raisers to pay their way to, and stay in, California to march in the 5 1/2-mile Tournament of Roses Parade.

As the bulk of the students returned home yesterday from their week in Pasadena, many agreed the trip was well worth the months of planning and preparation.

"The experience is one to remember forever," said a beaming Maelani Ikepa, a tenor saxophonist with Kaimuki High School's band. "It (was) the greatest rush."

This is the first year of the Hawaii All-State Band, which was formed from 45 private and public high school bands to meet the Tournament of Roses' 150-student minimum. No individual high school band in Hawaii meets that minimum.

The Hawaii All-State Band returned home yesterday afternoon after performing in the Rose Bowl Parade in California. Band members, from left, Mark Kido, Kenneth Kung, Shaun Lageretabua and Lilah Akin looked at the pins Kido collected during the trip.

Students paid $1,400 each for their round-trip flight to California and their hotel stay; extra money was needed for food and essentials.

With two children attending, that really cut into Charles Kauwe's budget. "We sacrificed a lot as a family," he said.

"It took a lot of planning," not only for the family to fund the trip, but for the Waianae High School students to attend practice twice or more monthly and buy uniforms for the march. Just the same, the father told his children to "go for it" when he first heard about their chance to march in one of the largest New Year's parades in the world.

"My daughter was holding the flag. She was right in front," Kauwe said proudly.

Sheri Rillamas, whose son was among the 70 Kahuku High School band members and 30 dancers in the All-State Band, said she helped the school collect more than $160,000 for the trip. That helped pay for some of the students' and chaperones' traveling costs and the shipment of their instruments and props.

The parade attracts more than 1 million spectators and 300 million television viewers yearly. But that is not why All-State Band Director Michael Payton decided to spearhead the planning and directing of Wednesday's performance in California.

Hawaii All-State Band dancers performed at Disneyland earlier this week. The band included students from 45 public and private high school bands.

"Self-esteem -- that's what you get as a musician," Payton said as a growing group of students gathered around him to listen, ignoring their luggage on the baggage carousel. "All the kids were bonding together. It brought tears to my eyes."

Payton said there were times, in the early months of planning for the parade, when he could not imagine marrying bands of varying talent into a cohesive bunch.

But he said a couple of two-hour group band practices in California before the parade, which included interisland bands that had never joined the Oahu group in practice, helped to fuse and finalize the All-State Band that America watched march down California Boulevard.

Christian Academy of Honolulu band member Ashley Miller, who sold cupcakes and cookies "almost every day" to help fund the trip for herself and two of her classmates, said the trip allowed her school with six high school band students -- none of them marchers -- get some big-school training.

Her mother, Dottie Miller, promises "this is just the beginning" for small and large schools alike to participate in the parade.

"It's a chance of a lifetime" for students, she said. "(It) can encourage and inspire."

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