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A Three-Isle Tour: Salsa and Brass Ensembles Spice up the Islands

Taking their show on the road, BYU–Hawaii’s Salsa Orchestra and Brass Ensemble brought toe-tapping, hand-clapping, and head-bobbing performances to hundreds on the Hawaiian islands of Lanai, Maui and Molokai. The island tour, from March 12-16, 2014, included five major performances, workshops, gatherings with alumni and friends, a service project and fireside. The Salsa Orchestra and the Brass Ensemble are directed by Dr. Darren Duerden and Dr. David Kammerer, respectively. 

The two groups, comprised of 23 student performers, first visited Lanai, the smallest publicly accessible inhabited Hawaiian island in the chain. With a population of only 3,000, a concert in Lanai City with a large attendance seemed unlikely. That thought proved inaccurate as hundreds gathered in the town center against a picturesque backdrop of mountains and Hawaiian pine. As the evening chill set in at the 1600-foot-elevation town, the students warmed up the night air with energetic merengue, calypso, classical genres. “The venue and the crowd in Lanai were amazing,” said Ian Christy, a senior from Laie (HI) studying graphic design, and saxophone player. “It was the biggest concert I have personally performed at. Because it was an outside concert, it drew a lot of people who may not have planned on coming. Everyone had a great time!”

Up early the next morning, the group boarded a ferry for a quick 45-minute trek across the ocean channel to the coastal community of Lahaina on the island of Maui. The first item of business upon arriving was to go directly to Lahaina Cannery Mall for a free lunchtime performance. Mall-goers, including residents and tourists, stopped to catch an earful of the music and find out more about BYU–Hawaii, its students and programs. A couple visiting Maui from Australia, who incidentally were musicians themselves, shared admiration for the “professional quality from such young performers.” That evening, members from Lahaina hosted a spectacular potluck gathering that culminated in a 90-minute performance for members and friends, including many BYU–Hawaii alumni and prospective students. 

Again, an early morning led to a choppy boat ride for the touring group – this time a little longer and a little choppier – to Molokai, the fifth largest of the main Hawaiian islands. Hosted by promoter, organizer, Molokai resident, and former Salsa Orchestra member Kristi Dudoit, the group had a full schedule waiting for them. The first stop was Kaunakakai Elementary School for a musical assembly followed by a performance at Molokai High School under the direction of school principal (and bishop of the Kaunakakai Ward) Stan Hao. In the early afternoon, the ensembles were special guests at an after-school music program for youth. “I felt the special opportunity to see people of all ages and how our music affected them differently,” said Adrienne Patton, a freshman from Florida studying English, and a euphonium player in the Brass Ensemble. “I felt the love and gratitude they had for us and our performance, and felt connected to them through the gospel.”

The Kaunakakai Ward hosted a dinner with the group ahead of an evening public performance for the entire island held at the LDS meetinghouse. The performance was high energy and had a couple of surprises including an unexpected trumpet solo from Dr. Kammerer and an audience-initiated dancing train that weaved in and out of the aisles. 

The final full day of the five-day tour began with a service project in Kaunakakai and sightseeing that reached into the rural southeastern areas of the island. Though the island had been in a drought, recent rainfall resulted in several runoffs that crossed the only coastal highway. While creating just a minor hazard to motorists, the rain provided impressive vistas of mountain waterfalls along the route. A final potluck gathering with alumni and friends hosted by the Hoolehua Ward gave opportunities to make new acquaintances, especially among those interested in attending BYU–Hawaii in the future. The evening closed with a musical fireside for members, missionaries, and friends that included testimony expressed in word and song, with an emphasis on the principle of education.

“It’s an honor for us as creative directors to work with these talented student musicians,” said Dr. Duerden. “We were able to touch many lives – but were also moved by the outpouring of love, interest and engagement from the wards, branches, stakes and audiences everywhere we went.”

A mini-documentary of the tour is currently being created for airing on BYUTV later in 2014.