HPU Band Momentous Milestone
By Starla Takara
On May 18th 2012, the Hawaii Pacific University Sea Warrior Band left Honolulu for an exciting week long west coast tour. The trip served as an enormous milestone for the band as the musicians shared the university’s aloha spirit through musical performance. It was the most fun and memorable college experience that the members have ever had.
The band began their musical adventure in Los Angeles, California and made their way to Seattle, Washington with stays in San Francisco and Ashland, Oregon. When they were not adventuring and exploring the cities, the musicians were performing.
The Sea Warriors participated in front of numerous theme-park goers at Universal Studios’ Lights, Camera, Music! Program. They performed a variety of Hawaii inspired songs and tunes from their library of concert and lively pep band pieces. Clarinetist and nursing major Mark Unangst stated, “We got to showcase our musical talents, while spreading a taste of aloha to our audience…Under the direction of Dr. Patrick Hennessey, we held a high standard of musical performance and pride.” Their concert in Universal Studios was one of four public performances. Other performances were: Union Square in San Francisco, Andros Karperos School in Yuba City, Oregon and Ballard High School in Seattle, Washington.
In addition to performing, the band had the opportunity to further their musical talents through a clinic held with John Carnahan, Director of Bands at California State University, Long Beach. Within a short period of time, Carnahan further developed the band’s sound immensely though his technical expertise. French horn player Tyler Nakasone commented, “By focusing on the smaller areas of the music, he (John Carnahan) improved the band as a whole, which improved our sound, intonation, and overall musicality.” The musicians learned new techniques and were truly surprised in the difference of the group’s sound. Working with such a talented collegiate music educator was a fantastic learning experience. Aside from learning experiences, students experienced the various city lives the different states had to offer.
Living on an island to which tourists flock, the band leaped at the chance to be tourists themselves. Like visitors, they explored the communities near their hotels. While in San Francisco, many adventured out to find In-n-Out Burgers and the famous Lombard Road. “I truly enjoyed the nights when we would walk the streets of various cities… These nights are what helped the band grow tighter personally as well as musically,” alto saxophonist Sean Cozo reminisced. While in Seattle, the band members went on a wild shopping spree. Like many tourists, the group went to landmark sites such as the Palace of Fine Arts, Alcatraz Island, Pike’s Place Market, and the Seattle Space Needle. Tuba player and recent MBA graduate Matt Colleps stated, “The trip was the best experience I have ever had in my life. It was an opportunity to build friendships and establish a sense of family orientation that can never be taken away.”
The group was sad to have the amazing trip come to an end after a fun and taco filled night in Seattle, but was even more sad when Dr. Hennessey announced that he would leaving the university. After five years at HPU, he would be following his musical aspirations to Florida. “The trip was the culmination of a long process to bring the band together as a unit - both musically and socially… My greatest joys on tour [were] watching the group come together socially and enjoy each other’s company and listening to the band’s performances [while] witnessing the unique spirit they all brought to the music,” Dr. Hennessey stated. Under his direction, the band program at HPU has grown enormously and held its own concert for the first time in the historical Hawaii Theater a month prior to the band’s departure. The musicians who had the opportunity to work with Dr. Hennessey will always remember the amount of heart and care he put into the music and into the program. Traveling to the West Coast was a gigantic milestone for the band under his direction. The trip will be one of the best college experiences for those who went.
Such an amazing event would not have been possible without support from HPU students and faculty, friends, family and community sponsors. The musicians would like to express a big warm mahalo to everyone who made the trip possible and to Dr. Patrick Hennessey for a trip the musicians will always remember.
Though the HPU Band will miss Dr. Hennessey, they now welcome Dr. Joseph Ruszkowski to their ohana as the new Director of Bands. They are extremely excited and are looking towards the musical adventures and milestones they will establish with their new director. Within the few months Dr. Ruszkowski has been with the band, the Sea Warriors have grown musically and as leaders. Welcome to the HPU Band Ohana Dr. Ruszkowski!