For the 2014 Na Koa Alii Hawaii All State Marching Band, it’s all about teamwork.
“This year they’ll be chanting ‘Ka I Ka Hoe, Ka I Ka Hoe,’ which symbolically means we’re all in this voyaging canoe together, everyone has to paddle as strong as you can or we won’t go anywhere,” John Riggle, managing director for HASMB, said during a practice with the Hawaii Island members at Kamehameha Schools last Sunday.
The chant speaks to the challenges the 300-plus-member band faces before their Jan. 1 performance at the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. With members coming from the Big Island, Oahu, Maui and Kauai, their first practice together won’t be until Dec. 26, just days before the parade. This is how it’s been for the band since 2002. Riggle travels from island to island, working with band directors in each area and teaching a routine that can’t be seen in its entirety until months later. Although it may sound like a risky move, Riggle said they always pull it off.
“It’s unfathomable what it looks like and sounds like,” he said “The whole week they’re just starry eyed, which is neat because then they’re playing with their heart and emotion, and for a musician, that’s where it comes from.”
Sarina Wyrick, junior at St. Josephs, dances hula for the band. She said tensions run high during the days leading up to the event, but in the end, it all works out.
“When people actually get there, they know exactly what they’re supposed to do. It just clicks,” she said.
According to Hilo senior Leysen Horiuchi, who played baritone for HASMB’s performance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a few years ago, being involved in such a large production and performing for millions of viewers worldwide is “surreal.”
“It went by so fast. We didn’t even realize that we marched in the Macy’s (parade) on Thanksgiving,” he said.
He also described his involvement with HASMB as a “learning experience.”
“Through the process it helps you become a better person and teaches you discipline,” he said.
Randy Skaggs, Big Island director for HASMB, said that’s exactly the point.
“It’s incredible to see how much they mature in those few days,” he said. “They have to make sure they get sleep; they have to make sure they get healthy. It’s not only a matter of how well they play the music, it’s a matter of how well they handle themselves.”
The Big Island contingent has been hard at work this year, practicing each month for the big day and raising funds for the trip. Skaggs said one of the most memorable moments thus far was meeting Scott Jenkins, president of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, and his wife Cynthia. The Jenkinses visited the Big Island to present the local HASMB members with the flag they’ll carry at the New Year’s Day event.
This year’s parade theme is “Dreams Come True,” and is one that Riggles said encompasses what such a moment means for the band’s members, their families, friends and schools.
“We tell the students this band is only going to exist one time, you’re going to play one time and that’s it. You have one game. Hope you hit the ball,” he said.
For more information visit www.hasmb.com.