Cindy Bither
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Band Takes First in Hawaii Parade

FullTextImage/img/@altThe VMI band performs at the USS Arizona Memorial. -- Photo courtesy of Col. John Brodie.

LEXINGTON, Va., Dec. 19, 2011 -- Cadets in the VMI Regimental Band made history last month when they traveled to Hawaii to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack with a series of performances held Nov. 21-27.

Among the firsts achieved by the trip was placing first in the 14th annual Waikiki Holiday Parade Nov. 25. “We won the Aloha trophy as the best band in the parade out of 21 bands,” said Col. John Brodie ‘92, VMI’s director of music. When the trophy arrived in the mail last week, Brodie observed,“It was a nice close to a great trip.”

That “great trip” involved another first for VMI.

“The 100 cadets and staff were the largest number of cadets traveling the farthest distance from VMI in the history of the Institute,” said Col. John Brodie ‘92, VMI’s director of music. “It was incredible.”

Brodie said the highlight of the week’s performances was the two-mile parade, where cadets joined bands from across the United States and Hawaii in honoring survivors and veterans of the Dec. 7, 1941, attacks.

The parade, televised nationally on Dec. 7, is held annually the Friday after Thanksgiving Day and includes local Hawaiian bands, as well as military units and dignitaries who march along torch-lit Kalakaua Avenue on Waikiki Beach.

“The parades were great, but Pearl Harbor was moving and enlightening,” said Joseph Predebon ’14, a snare drummer in the VMI band. “We knew most of the facts about Pearl Harbor going in, but seeing it up close was an entirely different experience. But everywhere you went in Hawaii looked like a screensaver photo; I took more than 100 pictures.”

Despite its idyllic appeal, the trip wasn’t all sun, sand, and five-star accommodations. The trip was made possible by a flight from Richmond to Hickam Field, Honolulu, aboard a C-17 military transport plane.

“We applied for training missions and went through lots of hoops to get it,” Brodie said. “Without a military airlift, we never could have flown.” Food and accommodations were courtesy of Schofield Barracks, an Army post that is home to the 25th Infantry Division.

In addition to the holiday parade, cadets participated in a performance at the USS Arizona Memorial and gave a private concert for VMI alumni – followed by Old Yells – at the Hale Koa Hotel, an Armed Forces Recreation Center on Waikiki Beach owned by the U.S. Department of Defense. Alumni who live in Hawaii treated cadets to a family-style turkey dinner at the hotel on Thanksgiving Day.

“It definitely wasn’t a break; we still had formations and band practices,” said Ryan Schmidt ’12, who is cadet in charge of the VMI band.

Schmidt, who marched with the VMI band during the inaugural festivities for President Obama in 2009, said the Waikiki Holiday Parade might have been even more exciting.

“In the inaugural parade we marched last, but this time we were number 13,” Schmidt said. “I had an adrenalin rush the entire time; I was just living in the moment the whole way.”

Megan Scheetz ’14, who plays piccolo in the regimental band, said she will never forget the side trip to the North Shore of Oahu, where cadets swam in the ocean and visited a botanical garden with a waterfall that fed into a small pool where cadets could swim.

“It was fun playing gigs and marching in the Waikiki Holiday Parade, but the extra activities we got to do on our own made the trip special for everyone.”

Maj. Chris Perry ‘05, assistant commandant for cadet life, chaperoned the trip with Brodie.

“I would say that this was an opportunity for VMI to be recognized nationally,” said Perry, “but more importantly an opportunity for the cadets to have an experience that so many would not normally be able to do

--George Abry