Congratulations to the Maui High School marching band and color guard for their recent triumph at the 2012 Mililani Trojan Festival of Bands! The Sabers won their division in the statewide competition for the third consecutive year, beating Oahu schools like Kalani and Pearl City.
As an alumna of the H.P. Baldwin High School Pep and Marching Bands, I couldn't help but feel a tiny twinge of rivalry when I read the news of the Sabers' three-peat. I know, it's ridiculously childish and petty, holding on to high school allegiances like those "Friday Night Lights" football fanatics. Old habits die hard, what can I say? In the 1970s, after Maui High moved from Hamakuapoko to Kahului and increased its population considerably, the Sabers and the Bears were intense opponents in both the athletic and academic arenas. I guess marching band falls somewhere between those two realms, but we band nerds were as fiercely competitive and proud as our gridiron counterparts.
I was a sophomore or a junior when Lance Jo revived the tradition of a Baldwin homecoming halftime show by the band. Until then, the only marching we did was in parades; simple rank-and-file steps, no fancy formations. Mr. Jo got us all fired up over the thought of performing precision drills - just like the college bands! - and we gladly put in the extra hours of practice and preparation. At our homecoming game (against Maui High, of course), when the gun went off to end the first half of play, the jocks jogged off to their locker rooms, the drum major's shrill whistle pierced the air, and we stepped off from the end zone onto our field of dreams. Heads held high, feet in perfect cadence, we owned that field. For 10 glorious minutes, anyway.
We played the theme song from "Hawaii Five-O" as we moved into our formations: a stick figure hula dancer, a palm tree swaying. I was the left kneecap of the hula dancer and a piece of dirt at the base of the palm tree. Our finale included our traditional fight song, "Come Rally," and the letters "BHS" across the length of the field. I'm sure Maui High's presentation last Saturday was much more elaborate and polished, but they couldn't have felt a greater sense of accomplishment than we did that night.
We had around 70 members, while James Kidoguchi's Sabers numbered more than 100. Mr. Kidoguchi was reputed to be as strict as our Mr. Jo, but from where we stood, his band seemed much less conventional. For one thing, they adopted "Raunchy" as their theme song while we still played "Mr. Touchdown" after every score. Their marching style was nontraditional as well; they did a double-time step like some of the hipper college bands were doing.
But the most obvious difference was in the uniforms. Maui High wore white dress shirts and white trousers with blue satin waist sashes, the formal Hawaiian look that was so popular at the time. We wore what we called "monkey suits" - brass-buttoned maroon and white vests over navy blue blazers, tin soldier hats with fat feather plumes, white gloves, saddle shoes - the works. Before every football game, we'd stand at attention in parade formation while our drum major conducted inspection. Glenn was even more of a stickler than Mr. Jo, and he would stride up and down the rows, looking each of us over from head to toe. Our brass buttons and buckles had to be as spotlessly shiny as our instruments, our two-toned shoes perfectly polished. We were as crisp and disciplined as a Marine platoon.
Being teenagers, we grumbled about being treated like a bunch of boot camp recruits. Being band nerds, we went along with all of it. Secretly, I liked the rigid structure, the attention to detail, the feeling of being but a cog in a well-oiled machine and the belief that the machine might grind to a halt if I had even one shoelace out of place.
Marching band reinforces core values like commitment and cooperation in the same way team sports do. It's physically challenging, with the added bonus of making music as you exercise. It may rank fairly low on the high school coolness scale, but I have high hopes for its future.
Front page coverage certainly helps - thank you, Maui News. And thank you, Kerry Wasano and the marching Sabers, for your hard work and dedication. You've accomplished a remarkable feat and made us all proud. Even this grumpy old Bear.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.