Grammy-winning Honokaa High Jazz Band goes to Maui

  • Linaka and Gary Washburn smile at the launch party for his recent album, “Sassy” last November. This is the first music tour the school band has taken without her with her passing in January. SARAH ANDERSON/Special to West Hawaii Today

HONOKAA — This Thursday through Sunday, Honokaa High School Jazz Band will perform on Maui and Lanai to celebrate National Jazz Appreciation Month, which culminates in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) International Jazz Day on April 30.

The Band is a group of advanced music students who uphold a long tradition of excellence at Honokaa High and Intermediate School. Under the direction of Gary Washburn, a dedicated teacher and accomplished jazz artist, the band is considered one of the state’s top high school bands. HHS was one of 36 schools out of 22,000 eligible programs in the U.S. to receive the GRAMMY Signature Schools award.

This year, the theme of Honokaa Jazz Band’s Big City Tour Band is all about bridges, as they become an ambassador of aloha — bridging the Big Island of Hawaii to Maui and Lanai through music.

Besides the term “bridge” being a musical term referring to a section in music that provides a contrast to the verses in a song and the chorus, the music itself becomes a bridge that can be significant for the sharing of aloha and peace.

Washburn noted, “Music is a universal language and as such, opens doors between cultures and communities. Music does not involve words, only sound. Sound expresses emotion, particularly in jazz, where the freedom and spontaneity are the corner stones of the art. Jazz musicians have a ‘special connection’ through a common ‘secret language’ that celebrates peace and friendship. Their purpose is to create connections between the listeners by expressing common emotions.”

The concept of the bridge is not only seen as music shared, which will be connecting three islands on this tour, it connects the past and future in the life of the Honokaa Band. Nearly four decades ago, the then little known jazz band from the Hawaii Island went to Maui.

State of Hawaii House District 1 Representative Mark M. Nakashima recalled, “As a member of the Honokaa High School Band, our first neighbor island trip was to Maui to march in the Maui County Fair Parade. Mr. Washburn was in his second year as a band teacher at Honokaa and this did a lot to revitalize and energize the music program. This return to Maui seems like a bridge between the past and the future as Honokaa marks a return to the Valley Isle once again after 38 years.”

Returning to Maui to extend a heart of friendship from Honokaa, the band will perform at the Maui Adult Day Care Nisei Ocean View Center and the Queen Kaahumanu Center. During the trip they will also play twice at the 10th Annual Maui County Agricultural Festival at the Maui Tropical Plantation, and do a final appearance at the Lahaina Arts Society Banyan Tree Fine Art Fair.

In addition. the band will bridge over to Lanai where they will do three appearances connected to the eleventh Fifth Friday Lanai Town Party.

While the tour will be exciting, the most challenging bridge to cross for the band will be between the past 40 years of the Honokaa music program with the beloved Linaka Washburn by her husband Gary’s side, and the first music tour without her. She loved bridges and made sure the 2017 Honokaa Big City Tour would go on despite her fight with throat cancer. Linaka passed this past January and in honor of her constant aloha and support, the Honokaa Jazz Band’s 2017 tour is all about bridges.

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