After 43 years of teaching music, there’s no stopping Gary Washburn!
Mention Gary Washburn’s name to any former student who has taken his music class at Honokaʻa High, and they’ll sing his praises all night long. Under his leadership, the school has received numerous honors including a Grammy Signature Schools Award. Last Saturday (April 24), he presented the Honokaʻa Jazz Band (HJB) in a 60-minute livestream concert at the Kahilu Theatre, and it was one of their finest moments.
The show was also a great educational experience for the students. Before the pandemic hit, HJB performed a multi-island tour with Texas blues musicians Johnny Nicholas and Marcia Ball. In 2019, the high school band played a series of free concerts on Oʻahu during National Jazz Appreciation Month. Over the past year of school closures, the class continued their music studies with Washburn via Zoom.
“Music teachers and students have had a tough time adjusting during the pandemic,” Washburn noted between songs. “With the long-distance learning thing, students don’t get to know each other, and it makes teaching really awkward.” Despite the learning limitations, Washburn and HJB managed to record their 18th album at a local studio last year – appropriately tilted BANDemic. Their next CD is currently in the works.
Saturday’s show spotlighted various bandmembers with center stage solos, including a few of last year’s alumni who didn’t have the opportunity to perform in front of an audience.
Guitarist Jonah Villanueva was featured on two songs. “Hallelujah, I Love Her So” (Ray Charles cover) demonstrated his great vocals, and later he came back to perform lead guitar for “Raindown Tears” (Johnny Nicholas cover). Villanueva plays monthly at the Public House in Honokaʻa.
Alumnus Kaylynn Iona was joined by Kalei Aikau-Akau and they shared vocals on Beyoncé’s R&B hit “Halo.” They are both outstanding singers, but together, their flawless harmony vocals are stunning.
Chico Joaquin is a multi-instrumentalist who was brought forward to play guitar on “Okie Dokie Stomp,” an upbeat song originally done by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, the legendary blues guitarist. Joaquin, like others in HJB, is sure to be a rising star in years to come.
HJB finished up their set with “Mambo Swing.” Washburn switched over from his bulky baritone to soprano sax for this infectious dance number.
After 43 years of teaching music, what keeps Washburn motivated? “The students!” said the music director in a post-show interview. “I’ve learned so much from them, and I try to pass on that they can earn a living making music here in Hawaiʻi. I’ve been amazed at the number of my students that have gone into the business of music with numerous successes like winning Nā Hōkū and Grammy Awards. Playing a show at the Kahilu Theatre is a big deal for the students too.”
This new crop of talented Big Island musicians offers reassurance that our music scene will continue to flourish, thanks to Gary Washburn.
Missed the show? Don’t despair. You still can catch the livestream concert and interview on Kahilu.TV.
Notes & Links
Honoka’a Jazz Band: Kalei Aikau-Akau, Kaylynn Iona, Jonah Villanueva (vocals), Ray-Anthony Souza, Tavi Rapozo (alto saxophone), Jed Altura (tenor saxophone), Gary Washburn (baritone saxophone, clarinet), Julie Perez-Nava, Czar Austin, Justin Vallente (trumpet), Zac Van Sprosen – (trombone), Shei Subia, Daelyn Deluz (keyboards), Chico Joaquin, Mica Tabios (guitar), Jon Moniz-Alcoran (bass) Kalei Aikau-Akau, Janeille Ballesteros, Chico Joaquin (drums/percussion).
Guest Artists: Kaylynn Iona (vocalist, drums), Francis Altura (piano, drums), Joshua Candelario (tenor sax), Jonah Villanueva (vocalist/guitar).
Rainbow (Bill Doggett cover) |You Make Me Happy (Marcia Ball cover featuring vocalist Kalei Aikau-Akau) | Hallelujah, I Love Her So (Ray Charles cover featuring vocalist Jonah Villanueva), Superstition (Stevie Wonder cover featuring vocalist Kalei Aikau-Akau) |Halo (Beyonce cover featuring vocalist Kaylynn Iona) | Okie Dokie Stomp (Gatemouth Brown cover featuring guitarist Chico Joaquin) Raindown Tears (Johnny Nicholas cover featuring vocals and guitar by Jonah Villanueva), Listen Here (Eddie Harris cover), I Wish (Stevie Wonder cover featuring vocalist Kalei Aikau-Akau)|
Hana Hou: Mambo Swing (Big Bad Voodoo Daddy cover) |
All songs arranged by Gary Washburn except for “Listen Here,” arranged by Zackery Smith.
To catch a show and stay up to date with the Kahilu Theatre’s new online platform Kahilu TV and connect with Gary Washburn, click on the links below.
About the author: Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: Steve Roby
Gary Washburn’s former students in the music industry are: RJ Kaneao – Na Hoku Hanohano Award – Sony/Dark Star; Kamakoa Asing – Na Hoku Hanohano Award, GRAMMY Pihana Productions; Ryan Hiraoka – Na Hoku Hanohano Award – Rubber Slipper Prod.; Maelan Abran – Na Hoku Hanohano Award – Pikake Records; Brandon Gomez – Ark Patrol;Emma Reddekopp – Ark Patrol; Jacy Anderson – Palindrome; Jon Hart – Guitar; Elizabeth Sekona Robinson – Monard Music, Lavender album; Noa Eads – Drummer; Jericho Sombrio – Vice President Easy Music Center; Amy Mills – Vocalist; Colin Dochin – Drummer; Mark Saito – Mark Saito Music; Jesse Hoopai – guitar/vocalist; Ryan Higgins – Higgs; Bulla Kamakoa – Tihati Prod.; Headas Kamakoa – Tihati Prod.; Damien DeMello; Willie Jo Camara; Kiana Ventura – Na Hoku Hanohano Award-Female Vocalist nomination – Lost Coast Prod.; Jennifer Joaquin Finuliar – vocalist YouTube