No snow haltered this December performance by the Tooele High School Marching Band, as it traveled across the Pacific Ocean to participate in the Pearl Harbor Parade.
The students were certainly excited to be in Hawaii — maybe a little too excited. The band had just arrived in Hawaii and visited the beach to start the trip. One of the students, who had never visited the ocean before, waded out into the water and stepped on a sea urchin. The student was OK, but it started things off in frantic fashion.
Unfortunately, another student, freshman Jacob Williams, wasn’t so lucky. Jacob returned home from Hawaii later than the rest of the band because he spent the trip in the hospital. On Friday, Dec. 6, Jacob mentioned to band director Marilyn Syra that he wasn’t feeling well. He was taken to the hospital and put into intensive care after suffering an asthma attack. He spent the duration of his time in Hawaii at the hospital. While in the hospital, he also discovered he had the flu.
Syra said she felt awful for Jacob because he missed out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in the Pearl Harbor Parade. Jacob eventually did get to see a little bit of Hawaii when he was released from the hospital Wednesday, and he and his mother returned home Thursday. To show that the band is a family and that it missed Jacob, Syra and the THS band members went over to Jacob’s house with their instruments to play music for him Thursday after school.
Syra said the trip could have been disastrous, especially after Jacob got sick. But the parents who traveled with the band took turns looking after Jacob in the hospital, lightening the load for Syra.
She said, “Without all the help, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Despite Jacob’s illness in Hawaii, the THS band enjoyed its experience, especially in representing Utah. Syra said those in charge of the Pearl Harbor Parade noted that her students were well behaved.
An example of this came when the students visited the U.S.S. Arizona. Standing and looking down at the ship, Syra said the students were silent and respectful, appreciating the moment.
One of the THS band chaperones, Stacy Smart, said the students knew when to be respectful.
“The band students were excited,” she said, “but when it was time for them to calm down and be respectful, they did just that.”
Trevor Greenburg, a senior band member who plays tuba and tenor saxophone, said visiting the U.S.S. Arizona made everyone feel contemplative.
“[I enjoyed] going to the U.S.S. Arizona and feeling the greatness that they did,” he said, “how they fought even though they knew that they were probably going to sink.”
Greenburg’s favorite moment in Hawaii included the whole ambiance.
He said, “My favorite part was going to the beaches and seeing nice colors that were out there, and then seeing the veterans that were there at the parade and knowing that we were representing some of their fallen comrades.”
Greenburg said he recognized that a lot of hard work went into putting together the trip and performance in the parade.
“Everybody in band worked really hard and did a lot of fundraising,” he said. “We had a lot of support from our community and the parents that were with us. It’s just amazing that we could pull together, come through and go to Hawaii.”
As part of its participation in the Pearl Harbor Parade, the THS band received a trophy designed like a tiki.
“[The trophy] was for being there and representing the U.S.S. Utah,” Greenburg said. “It’s really cool because it’s the first one we’ve had that looks like a tiki.”
The tiki trophy now sits in the band room among the plethora of other trophies the THS band has received.
The THS band had a chance to visit some of the other sites in Hawaii, including the Polynesian Cultural Center. It also had the chance to perform “God Bless America” with the Marine band.
To remember their experiences at Pearl Harbor, Syra assigned the band students to write journal entries after the fact. She also gave each of them commemorative patches that honor Pearl Harbor as a memento for their participation in the parade.
Greenburg said it was an unforgettable experience.
“I would definitely do that again,” he said. “I wouldn’t care how much hard work I’d have to do.”
Syra said performing in the parade was unique, and others deserve the same chance.
“It is an honor that I hope other bands get the chance to have before the thought of going again,” Syra said. “I am still trying to sink in that we have gone and are back.”