Band and Orchestra Rebuilds Program with Ambition and Diligence


By Jerome Linear

An Vo and Alan Gan performing “Hey Song” during the welcome back assembly.

Jacky Oasay, reporter

Since the 1970s, the McKinley High School Band and Orchestra has created a motto to hang behind the conductor’s podium.
This year the motto is “Our Growth is Fueled With Ambition and Diligence.” This motto also hangs in the students’ hearts as the Band and Orchestra restores that ambition and diligence after the difficult pandemic years.
“This motto serves as a reminder that we must all rebuild the program through our own desires to be great again,” Band president Serena Ratonel said.
Although this motto serves as a reminder, Ratonel said hard work is still needed to achieve said greatness. However, after coming out of the pandemic, members of the BaO worried about the outcome of a quarantined generation of musicians.
“I feel like there are problems with motivation and finding the drive to keep going and practice every day… but I feel like the passion for success is still there because nobody wants to sound bad,” Band vice president, Abcdee Gauthreaux, said.
Along with motivation and ambition, camaraderie is important to a good music program, which the pandemic made difficult.
“The pandemic definitely halted my progress in music because a lot of it involves listening and rehearsing with each other in real life,” Ratonel said.
The separation from others was a setback that online school failed to fix. Band director and MHS alumnus, Joseph Nakamoto, started his student and first year of teaching during the pandemic.
“I have to help them sound better, but there’s only so much you can do or say if you can’t hear them altogether, all the time,” Nakamoto said.
Despite the struggles Nakamoto had to face during his years of student teaching, he empathized with the students’ motivation and ambition regarding music.
“Playing music on a screen by yourself and not being able to be heard was probably demoralizing for a lot of people,” Nakamoto said.
The entire idea of music is connections and having fun playing together, Nakamoto said. However, when everyone was in the pandemic, the opportunity to make friends and socialize was more difficult.
Despite the setback, Orchestra president Abigail Trumata made good use of the pandemic in terms of music.
“Being quarantined allowed me to have a lot of free time, so I used all of that time to practice and improve a lot of my skills on my viola,” Trumata said.
This year, the freshman class consists of around 14 students. They come from different backgrounds, middle schools, and musical experience. Freshman Andre Kam is part of that group.
“I think the pandemic has set back a generation of Band students by restricting what they can do in regard to hands- on experience in music, like performing or even practicing,” Kam said. “This has led to some students falling behind and they haven’t been able to catch up.”
Nakamoto said he fears a diminishing number of students in the upcoming years.
“I just think because of COVID that it was a little more challenging to get students engaged in music…, but that’s why I try to make the program as fun as possible,” Nakamoto said.
Band and Orchestra Week—a time for students and advisors to celebrate the program—was during Thanksgiving week. Many events such as outdoor activities, potlucks, and traditions occurred. These activities enhance the experience of being in the McKinley High School BaO, restoring the program after the pandemic.
The program has experienced a hectic first semester. Students expect greatness from the program in the future.
“The purpose of every motto is for something to look up to throughout the year,” Trumata said.