WEST HAWAII TODAY | BIG ISLAND ENTERTAINMENT SCENE FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017 | 5 The late jazz singer and songwriter, Nina Simone, described jazz as not just music, but a way of life, a way of being and a way of thinking. The Honokaa High School band is fortunate to be under the direction of dedicated teacher, Gary Washburn who brings this philosophy to life and will take his students to perform in this year’s Big Island Jazz & Blues Festival June 1 to 4 at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. “We have been asked to perform in the past — I think two times, and the response to the group has been very positive,” said Washburn. “Festival organizer, Ken Martinez has asked me to help back up the people he brings in, and I feel it is important to expose the students to the ‘real deal,’ so when he asks, I always try to get the students involved.” Washburn earned his master’s degree from University of Hawaii before attending Boston University where he worked on his doctorate in Music. He landed a job in Los Angeles writing and arranging music for Motown, then moved to Hawaii where he continued composing and became a school teacher. He encourages and teaches his students how to become popular musical performers, and many have graduated high school and entered into the entertainment industry. “Just getting the opportunity to perform is what teaches and builds self confidence for life’s challenges,” said Washburn. “It’s not just music, but whatever they pursue outside of music.” Washburn’s dedication to teaching earned him the “Class Nobel Educator of Distinction Award,” in 2010. In 2011, his successful band program was awarded a generous grant from the Grammy Foundation. The advanced music students who make up the Honokaa High School Jazz Band are part of a long history of excellence. The band has the distinction of being one of Hawaii’s top high school bands. “They are excited and want to entertain,” said Washburn. “This is very rare for students in Hawaii to get to rub elbows with professionals that were once their age trying to develop their musical skills. I think the students, for the most part, don’t really know what they are stepping into. I have them perform a lot, so I feel to them it is just another gig that Mr. Washburn asks them to do. The result is the experience — the education.” An experience that includes performing at the Big Island Jazz & Blues Festival along side such legends as Russell Malone, one of the greatest living Jazz guitarists; saxophone master, Eric Marianthal; Jazz Hall of Fame saxophone legend, Bobby Watson; jazz singer Pamela Watson; Grammy winner, Wayne Toups, Award-winning New Orleans band, The Iguanas; and Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner Benny Uyetake, just to name a few. “People should attend to experience the real deal — world class artists doing what The Honokaa High School Jazz Band performs at 4:45 p.m. on June 3 during the Big Island Jazz & Blues Festival. COURTESY PHOTO/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY they have dedicated their life to,” said Washburn. “The guest artists and backup musicians have basically never played together, so to see and hear them put it together in front of the audience, to speak the language spontaneously and create emotional moments for the audience with what they share in common is very rare on the Big Island.” The Honokaa High School Jazz Band performs at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, June 3. Tickets for the festival are $50 (general admission), $100 VIP seating, $1000 VIP table for 10. Info/purchase tickets: www.bigislandjazzandbluesfestival. com. ■ Honoka’a High School Jazz Band to perform at Big Island Jazz & Blues Festival BY KAREN ROSE SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY Win tickets to West Hawaii Today, a proud sponsor of the Big Island Jazz & Blues Festival, is giving away three sets of premium seating tickets for two to Big Island Jazz & Blues Festival on June 3 at Mauna Beach Hotel. Enter to win your pair of tickets by visiting West Hawaii Today’s Facebook page and liking our Big Island Jazz & Blues Festival post starting Friday, May 26, through Wednesday, May 31. Winners will be selected Thursday morning and notified via Facebook to come on down to our Kailua-Kona office to claim their tickets.
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