Photo by EMI Hawaii
Bands from around the country gathered to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 2011. The idea of a mass band came from Allen Bodenlos, age 91, who is a Pearl Harbor survivor and veteran Army bugler.
“This is one of the last times there will be a significant amount of survivors left,” says Justin Shuler of Group Travel Network, one of the event organizers. “I know, for the survivors, it was a very tearful commemoration. They were very thankful to all these students that took the time to commemorate such a historic event in our country’s history.”
Bands hailing from Alaska to Florida and ranging from high schools to adult groups made the trip to Hawaii to participate in the 600-member group, which played during a 45-minute ceremony led by Bodenlos. Twelve other bands from around the country participated in a commemorative parade the same day.
“The whole trip and the experience of being in Hawaii for the 70th anniversary, you can’t take that away from anyone, and you can’t learn that in a book,” says Kenny Broussard, band director at Erath (La.) High School. “It was so incredible just to be there and show the kids how important our military is to our country.”
Many of the bands made a full trip out of the opportunity, spending a week in Hawaii and visiting beaches and other attractions such as Diamond Head. All the bands participated in a traditional Hawaiian luau and toured Pearl Harbor and the USS Missouri.
“A few months before [the trip], the bands were provided the music that they would be performing; they pre-learned what they’d be playing,” Shuler says. “On the island there was a day set aside for all the bands to come together and rehearse. It was interesting to hear them go from the disorganized first note to a beautiful piece of music played by 600 musicians.”
About half of Broussard’s 560-member band fundraised and went on the trip. In order for them to be allowed to skip school, students had to take extra lessons about Pearl Harbor’s history. In the past, the band has traveled around the country and even played in the Bahamas.
“I just think this trip was the most incredible thing we’ve done to date; it’s something that they’re going to be talking about forever,” Broussard says. “The kids and parents wanted to go, and they made it happen. It was once in a lifetime.”