Park City High School Marching Band will represent Utah at Pearl Harbor
September 11, 2015
The Park City High School Marching Band will heed the call to appear in the 75th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Parade in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.
The band will represent the U.S.S. Utah, one of nine battleships that were sunk when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, said Bret Hughes, director of percussion for Park City High School.
"The committee who selects the bands for the parade has selected only one band from each state the battleships were named after that were stationed at Pearl Harbor," Hughes said. "We’re the only band from Utah that get to go and we’re excited that it is our responsibility."
The announcement came Monday during the Miners Day Parade, but Christopher Taylor, director of bands at Park City High School, knew about the invitation a little more than two weeks ago.
"We told our school’s administration about it, but asked them to sit on it for a couple of weeks," Taylor said with a laugh. "That was hard."
The bandleaders estimate between 110 to 120 students in grades 9 through 12, will go on the trip.
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"We’re not sure of the exact total yet, because we just announced it to the kids," Hughes said. "However, those who are going need to commit by Oct. 1 of this year."
"We know there will be more kids signing up for the band because of the trip, so we would appreciate any help from the community," Taylor said. "We will probably need additional uniforms and instruments and other donations."
To donate to the Park City High School Marching Band, visit pcbands.net.
Marching band is a 100-percent extracurricular music group, according to Hughes.
"All of the students are enrolled in music classes of some level, but the marching band itself is not a class that meets during the school day," he said. "It’s about entertainment and recruitment and a way for the kids to play during the summer."
The group performs mostly at mostly parades, Taylor said.
"I remember watching the Park City Fourth of July parade seven or eight years ago and another school’s band marched," Taylor said. "It was cool, but I felt we needed to get our own band to play, so we started up this program."
Participation in the Pearl Harbor parade is a once-in-a-lifetime educational experience, Hughes said.
"I know that our current students know what Pearl Harbor is, but I don’t think they know what the historic implications are," he said. "So, to go to Pearl Harbor and intimately learn about the attack is a history lesson that can’t be taught in school."
The U.S.S. Utah was commissioned before World War I and saw action during the Mexican Revolution in 1914 and during World War I in 1917, according to Hughes.
"It had been decommissioned from battleship to training ship and that’s why it was moored at Pearl Harbor," he said. "There were men stationed on it, but it wouldn’t have ever gone into battle. It was actually the first battleship sunk during the attack."
Hughes last visited Pearl Harbor in 2002 when he was a sophomore at Cheyenne East High School in Wyoming.
"We didn’t march in the Pearl Harbor parade, but we were there for another event," he said. "I still remember how emotional it was and how much history we as students learned that we just didn’t know about."
Taylor was at Pearl Harbor this past June.
"There’s just something about being in the monument and standing over and looking down at the battleship U.S.S. Arizona under the water and see a sea turtle swim by," he said. "It was a very pensive moment. I was looking down the turret of a gun. We had just read all the names and ranks of the different people that were on the battleship."
While reading that list, Taylor realized there was a whole military band housed on the ship.
"That struck home," he said. "I have a lot of friends who play in military bands and we generally think of that as a safe occupation, but in this instance it wasn’t."
This week, Hughes and Taylor talked with the students about what it means to celebrate and represent people who are in the military.
"There aren’t many World War II veterans alive anymore," he said. "So this is such an honor. We know our students are exemplary human beings, students and musicians who put a phenomenal product out there. They will be able to take this art that they spend so much time perfecting and use it for something that is greater than themselves and greater than music."
For Taylor, the honor is more personal.
"My father is a veteran who served in Korea," he said "So for us to get to say thanks and pay tribute to the military is a big deal for me."
Taylor and Hughes heard about the parade a few months ago and submitted an application.
"There were some phone calls to us with them asking about our program and I know they spent some time looking at YouTube videos of the band," Taylor said. "They liked what they saw and heard and asked us to come and do this."
He’s already thinking of the music.
"The first thing that came to mind was, of course, a military tribute," Taylor said. "We called a director that had done this before and asked him what the bands play and it was a military tribute.
"I know at the beginning of the parade all of the bands will perform a mass-band version of ‘God Bless America," he said. "That should be a goose-bump moment for anyone involved."
Taylor is also tossing around the idea of performing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." "I’ve got some ties to the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps, and they have a beautiful arrangement of that," he said.
A few days ago, Taylor’s father, a musician and composer, asked if he could write a new piece for the band to play.
"Since he is a vet, he would love to pay tribute that way as well," Taylor said. "That could be a possibility.
"We’re also adding a Color Guard, which is something we’ve never had before," Taylor said. "So, we’re looking for people in the community who have had some Color Guard experience who would be willing to come and teach for us."
In the meanwhile, Taylor, Hughes and the marching band have a year to prepare, but know the time will pass quickly.
"There will be a lot to do, but we’re honored and thrilled to be part of this," Taylor said.
To donate to the Park City High School Marching Band’s participation in the 75th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Parade, visit pcbands.net.