Review: Big Island’s Youth Shine at Jazz Concert


Honoka’a High School Jazz Band w/ Big Island Music Academy
Kahilu Theatre, Waimea
February 25, 2018

Sunday’s All-Star Youth Jazz Concert at the Kahilu Theatre was a wonderful opportunity to hear some of the Big Island’s up-and-coming musicians and singers perform jazz and pop standards.

A few months ago Big Island Music Academy (BIMA) Directors, Andrea Lindborg and Luke Clebsch, contacted the Kahilu Theatre about doing a concert that would feature their students. Chuck Gessert, Kahilu’s Artistic Director, loved the idea, and rounded out the afternoon event with the Honokaa High Jazz Band, under the direction of Gary Washburn. The proceeds from the show went to the theatre’s many after school arts education programs.

The first set spotlighted musicians from BIMA, ages 10 and up, and several had only been playing their instruments for a few months. There was a performance by ukuleles, a vocal group, and songs featuring the Academy’s jazz and pop bands.

Any hardcore jazz aficionado would appreciate the 45-minute set Lindborg and Clebsch assembled. There were two from John Coltrane (“Blue Train” and “Mr. P.C.”), one from the legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius, (“The Chicken”), and a tip of the hat to Chicago blues vocalist, harmonica player Junior Wells (“Messin With The Kid”). The audience graciously encouraged the students with roars of applause after each solo.

The Honokaʻa High School Jazz Band

Fresh off a Big Island tour with Bluesman Johnny Nicholas, The Honokaʻa High School Jazz Band’s 43 members wowed the crowd with several familiar covers by Paul Simon, Sam Cooke, and Ruth Brown. Their set concluded with Washburn’s own composition “Playin’ In Traffic.”

The Honoka’a High School Jazz Band features advanced music students who uphold a long tradition of excellence at Honoka’a High and Intermediate School. Under Washburn’s direction, himself a dedicated teacher and accomplished jazz artist, the band is considered one of the States top high school bands.

Founded in 1978 by Washburn, the jazz band today has grown to about 42 students. Members rotate in and out of the jazz band as students enter and graduate high school, leaving each year with a slightly new band to carry on the longstanding tradition of excellence.

Winning a Grammy award in 2011 and becoming a Grammy “signature school,” the Honoka’a Jazz Band continues to maintain high standards and expects much from each round of young musicians.

It was encouraging to witness all of the students’ efforts in Sunday’s jazz concert, and hopefully  we’ll see them perform elsewhere very soon.

Big Island Music Academy 
Set List
Ukulele intro (Dueling Banjos) | C Blues | Man In The Mirror | Rise Up | Blue Train | Messin’ With The Kid | Stolen Moments | Mr. P.C. | The Chicken | No Diggity | Spain

Honokaʻa High School Jazz Band
Set List
Mambo Swing |  Don’t You Worry ‘bout A Thing | My Foolish Heart | More Today | A Change Is Gonna Come | Bonito Sombrero | 5-10-15 Hours |  You Can Call Me Al | Cry Me Out |  Playin’ In Traffic

For more on the Big Island Music Academy, be sure to visit their website:

The Honokaa High School Jazz Band lists their events via Facebook:


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