‘A common passion for music’: DODEA musicians play the classics af ter scant rehearsals

Far East modern music garage-band vocalist senior Ai Obayashi of Nile C. Kinnick.
From Stripes.com
Far East modern music garage-band vocalist senior Ai Obayashi of Nile C. Kinnick.

‘A common passion for music’: DODEA musicians play the classics af ter scant rehearsals

by: Dave Ornauer | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: November 27, 2017

CHATAN – Introduce team members to each other first thing Monday morning. Give them intense 8-hour rehearsal sessions over the next 2½ days. By the third day, ensure they’re singing, playing jazz and garage-band music as if they’d known each other all their lives.

That was the challenge during the week of Nov. 13 for 55 musicians from 12 DODEA-Pacific schools who came together for the Far East jazz and modern music festival.
“It’s kind of like putting together an all-star football or basketball team; it’s the same concept,” Nathan McCoy of DODEA-Pacific’s area office said of the four-day event held at Kadena High School. He has helped organize the festival since its inception in the spring of 2010.

All that work, in classroom sessions and rehearsals, was followed by a Nov. 15 garage-band concert at the Ferris-wheel corner of American Village in Chatan. The grand finale the next day was a repeat of the garage band followed by a jazz choir and band concert in Kadena High’s auditorium.

The students performed their roles with seemingly apparent ease.

One thing that McCoy said helped was getting selected students in touch with each other via social media, particularly the garage-band musicians, to get an idea of what they’d prefer to perform.

“To have some interaction prior to the festival, it’s been helpful,” McCoy said.

Sophomore Sabrina Wrachford of Kadena High School, one of the garage band’s two vocalists, agreed.

“Once the band started to blend and we got the chemistry going, it flowed together,” Wrachford said. “I think we all have a common passion for music. Once we’re in our element, we get it going.”

Wrachford was joined on vocals by senior Ai Obayashi of Nile C. Kinnick; junior percussionist Atticus Trudeau of Kubasaki; sophomore keyboardist Cassie Sistoso of Seoul American; senior bassist Brian McCollum of Robert D. Edgren; and Guam High senior guitarists Brian Sharkey and Javen Sotomil. They called their band 42-Percent Offbeat.
42-Percent Offbeat delighted a crowd of some 200 gathered at the Ferris-wheel corner, where the band played their own original composition, called “Flowers Only Bloom,” along with seven cover tunes.

After each, they would chant “One team, wild cats!” in unison.The cover tunes ranged from pop to hard rock, including “We Are Young” by Fun, Paramore’s “Hard Times” and Judas Priest’s “Breaking The Law.” “When speaking their own voice, it’s more authentic,” McCoy said.

Thursday’s choir and jazz band sessions were a trip back in time to the roots of that music genre itself.

Among other numbers, Singers performed Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald’s “Shiny Stockings,” Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” and Duke Ellington’s “Caravan.”

Then came the horns, woodwinds, percussion and keys. That session opened with Miles Davis’ “So What?” and was followed by Robert Johnson’s iconic “Sweet Home Chicago,” with Wynton Marsalis’ “Jump” as the closing number.

Two performers, each choir singers, were the only four-year veterans of the event, E.J. King’s Anna Small and Humphreys’ Elizabeth Huskus, each seniors. That small number, McCoy said, can be traced to there being “so many auditions and such turnover in the military community.”

The jazz and modern music festival is one of 12 academic and arts sponsored by DODEA-Pacific and held at various locations throughout the school year.

The first event was Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in September at Tsukuba University north of Tokyo. The next event is Journalism scheduled for Nov. 28-Dec. 1 at Matthew C. Perry High School in Japan.

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