All-out with the All-State band
By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rick Daysog
They traveled thousands of miles, braved 40-degree weather and shook off the stage fright that comes with performing in New York City before more than 40 million TV viewers.
But for the 380 members of the Hawai'i All-State Marching Band Na Koa Ali'i, playing in Macy's 79th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade yesterday was one for the memories.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to go to a Macy's parade," said Gale Nishida, whose daughter Christine, 17, plays flute.
"It was a thrill seeing Santa Claus and his sleigh at the end of the parade. It's something we will treasure in our memories for a long time," Nishida said by telephone from New York.
Decked in red, gold and green Mamo Howell-designed outfits, the Hawai'i contingent was the largest and probably the most colorful of the 10 marching bands that took part in the 2 1/2-mile parade.
Squeezed between a 785-pound SpongeBob SquarePants balloon and the Royal Caribbean International cruise line's "Voyage to Adventure" float, the Hawai'i band, accompanied by Tahitian dancers and hula dancers in ti-leaf skirts, performed a version of Te Vaka's "Pate Pate" for the TV audience before continuing on the parade.
NBC-TV hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer remarked that the Hawai'i band played together for the first time only this week. Previously, band director John Riggle logged hundreds of miles flying between O'ahu and the Neighbor Islands to conduct practice with segments of the band.
Randy Pacheco, whose son Zachary plays the snare drum, said yesterday's performance was the culmination of years of practice in their respective high school bands.
Pacheco, whose 17-year-old son is a senior at Kailua High School, said the group arrived Saturday on the East Coast and had its first rehearsal with the entire band the next day at the Pentagon parking lot in Washington, D.C.
The band, whose members include students from 41 public and private schools from four islands, had their first public performance together the next day when they played at the request of U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka at the West Lawn of the Capitol, Pacheco said.
"For these kids, all their hard work paid off," said Pacheco, who works as a senior engineer at Oceanic Time Warner Cable.
"They were having a ball. A lot of friendships were created on this trip."
They also had to endure some hardships — largely nerves and the cold.
Nishida said her 16-year-old niece, Liane Yoshitsugu, who also plays flute in the band, paced endlessly the night before the parade.
"She was very, very nervous. At 12:30 the night before, we were trying to calm her down when she came to our room," said Nishida, who viewed the parade from the front of the Ed Sullivan Theater.
"It's not uncommon for the kids to not sleep."
Nishida, who works as a guest-recognition coordinator at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental hotel, said band members were told to wear thermal underwear beneath their outfits when they performed. Several students, she said, wore multiple layers.
She said she bought a second pair of gloves in New Jersey after she realized the gloves that she had bought in Hawai'i for the trip couldn't fend off the cold.
Pacheco said many of the band members, not to mention the 150 or so parents and chaperons who accompanied them, had never seen snow before. So after a 3 a.m. dress rehearsal yesterday, several dozen parents went outdoors to play in the snow, Pacheco said.
"Most of us have never seen the kind of flaky snow ... that just flutters down from the air," he said.
"For a lot of the kids, this trip is one for the memories."
Reach Rick Daysog at email@example.com.