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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Kamehameha Schools' band heading for China

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

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The itinerary reads like a vacation of a lifetime, but there will be lots of work when the 144 students of the Kamehameha Schools Marching and Concert Band tour China.

The band entourage boards airplanes today for the China visit, in which they will participate in seven performances including one at the Great Wall.

"No band from Hawai'i has ever gone to China before," said John Riggle, band director.

The students and their parents spent the past two years raising money, practicing and learning how to be culturally sensitive.

"We've been practicing during the week, on Saturdays and even after school," said Brittney Peters, a Kamehameha junior who plays the flute.

"We not only represent ourselves, but our state, all of America, too, and the Hawaiian community.

"It's going to be awesome."

The students will parade their talents, performing their trademark "Aloha 'Oe" and "Kamehameha Marches" and award-winning "Phantom of the Opera" field show.

They'll also do plenty of sightseeing Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace on the shore of Kunming Lake, the Longxing Monastery and the 2,200-year-old Terra Cotta Warriors created to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife.

The students each had to raise $2,600 for travel costs for their 12-day trip to four cities Beijing, Shijiazhuang, Xian and Shanghai. They sold cookbooks and T-shirts and held jog-a-thons to raise the money.

Besides the Great Wall entrance plaza, they will perform at the Shijiazhuang No. 1 High School and at the Hebei Provincial Art Center with the Chinese Liberation Army Band.

Matt Ono, who plays trumpet in the marching band, said band has been a major part of his life for the past eight years. But nothing is as exciting as his trip to China. Not even when the band went on a Mainland tour in 2004 to New York; Orlando, Fla.; and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

"It's really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and my last opportunity as a band student," said Ono, who graduated Sunday from Kamehameha Schools. "It's the furthest I've ever traveled."

Lokela Minami, a trombone player since fifth grade, said every ounce of sweat, the hours of practice and the fundraisers have been worth it.

"I've invested so much of my high school career in band," Minami said. "This trip is an opportunity to be with friends and to travel to places. Now it's China. Band is a venue to experience the world."

Parent Susan Lee will accompany daughter Carissa, who plays the bass drum. Neither Lee nor her daughter have been to China.

Since the band was invited, they've worked with specialists in Chinese customs and culture, Lee said.

"Throughout the year we have had a lot of speakers on the Chinese customs, Chinese phrases and teacher of tai chi to help us perform tai chi to Hawaiian music," said Lee, who is the trip chairwoman.

"Our performance will be a blend of two cultures."

Riggle, with more than 30 years as band director, has taken his charges to The Royal Tournament in London and the changing-of-the-guard ceremony at the Palace of Monaco, as well as the 2000 Millennium Tour of France, Switzerland and Italy. Under Riggle's baton, the band has gone to the Rose Bowl three times.

"We've been all over the world," Riggle said. "We're seasoned travelers. But we've never gone to the East. The students realize they have a real opportunity."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.