Top DoDEA Pacific musicians perform in annual extravaganza
OKINAWA, Japan — Emotions were stirred, tears flowed and music filled the air as 160 student musicians from all 12 DoDEA Pacific high schools put on a spectacular performance during the 2013 Far East Honor Music Festival Concert April 19 at the Kubasaki High School auditorium.
The concert was the capstone to a week-long music festival which featured band, choir and string orchestra performances conducted by 16 DoDEA Pacific teachers and special guest conductor III Marine Expeditionary Force Band Director CWO2 Stephen B. Giove, who led one of the honor band selections.
The U.S. Marines of the renowned III MEF Band were an added bonus to rehearsals held throughout the week. They provided special clinics to help each band student reach higher levels of musicianship and performance capability.
DoDEA Pacific Senior Civilian Leader Martha Brown said the concert was “an incredible display of talent!”
“To say the week was intense is an understatement,” Brown added. “At 160 students strong, the event was the musical highlight of the year for these students, our participating music teachers, and DoDEA Pacific.”
Much planning, effort and teamwork helped provide a great experience for each student and teacher. Far East events are similar to state-level competitions in the U.S. and coordination is always a challenge when bringing more than 180 people together from 12 different schools located across three different countries. Billeting, meals and transportation with instruments takes considerable cooperation, according to Jim Hashman, DoDEA Pacific’s fine arts coordinator.
“The students were exceptional in their attitude and behavior as well as in musical ability,” said Hashman. “They wanted to be there, creating music together, which made them a joy to teach. Consequently, the instructors had just as much of an enjoyable experience as the students.”
According to Mark Honnold, the festival director and music instructor at Kubasaki HS, the planning for this year’s event began last school year. Student attending the festival were required to submit recorded auditions. They were competitively selected by a panel of judges and began preparing for the concert in December 2012.
“During all of this time, the [school band] directors were helping the students, planning the program, preparing the music, and so on,” said Honnold, who was reunited during the festival with his former band student and now Marine Sgt. Ariel Majors—who is an accomplished musician in her own right as a current flute and piccolo player with the III MEF Band. Honnold added, “We gave the students a great musical experience, and I think they both learned a lot and enjoyed themselves.”
Irene Lee, a music instructor at Seoul American HS in South Korea with over 30 years teaching experience, received a standing ovation when her retirement was announced after conducting “Irish Tune from County Derry” with the concert band. This was her 26th appearance in the Far East Honor Music Festival.
“I have known Irene for more than 15 years, and it is truly an honor to be her colleague and friend,” said Hashman during the concert. “She has given over 30 years of her life to music education.”
For the first time, the final concert was made available via a live webcast courtesy of a volunteer crew including students, staff, Kubasaki HS Educational Technologist Ron Leafgreen and AFN Okinawa’s Gunnery Sgt. Brian Griffin. Nearly 2,000 viewers watched the concert live on the DoDEA Pacific Far East Streamcasting Network hosted on the High School Cube platform—a record number for a DoDEA Pacific live event. More than 2,200 additional viewers have since watched the on-demand version available for anyone to enjoy:
The Far East Honor Music Festival dates back to the mid-1970s when several band directors created a multi-school Honor Band composed of the most promising student musicians selected by each school. The festival was formalized as a Pacific-wide event in 1979 as the Far East Regional Honor Band before adding a 52-voice choir in 1987. The festival evolved again in 2008 by adding a string orchestra and jazz band and grew to a peak of 180 students. Today, the Far East Honor Music Festival welcomes about 160 competitively-selected students each year as the Far East Jazz Festival is now a separate event featuring band and choir members.