Percussionists learn there’s more to drumming than hitting a beat


Xchyler Barut photo

Bret Kuhn demonstrates a drum roll to marching band students.

Xchyler Barut, Staff Writer

Three afternoons, 32 percussionists, 120 starts and stops. The Moanalua Menehune Marching Band Drumline learned more about the art of marching percussion from one of the country’s top musicians. Bret Kuhn, a Drumline Corps International Wall of Fame inductee trained students to better understand the fundamentals of playing technique. 

Senior Center Snare, Ethan Mina, has worked with Kuhn for about three years. Mina describes him as a very wise, nice, and knowledgeable person, especially in percussion. 

“I look up to [Mr. Kuhn], he is a DCI legend,” Mina said. “The most important life lesson he taught me was to relax. He not only likes to mention it in our playing, but it’s the right mindset to be in generally.” 

Todd Oshima, Drumline Director, encountered Bret Kuhn when Moanalua High School Music Director Seta first told him about him. That’s when Oshima contacted Kuhn and decided to bring him down to Hawai’i to conduct clinics at Moanalua High School for the Drumline. 

The Moanalua High School Marching Band and Color Guard Booster parents were able to fund his clinic and pay for his time here in Hawai’i. This is his fifth year administering clinics for the Drumline. At this point, he considers Hawai’i a second home. He mentions that the people and culture here makes him feel very welcomed and honored to work with the school’s Drumline. 

Some drumline members were starstruck and some were intimidated when he walked through the doors of this school. However, he taught them many things, ranging from drumming technique to being confident in their playing and believing in themselves. 

Sophomore, Dallas Sagucio, joined the school’s marching band this year, making this year his very first time working with Kuhn. Although Sagucio thought he was going to be very strict or scary, he was shocked to see that he was easy going. 

“It was very exciting, but I was a little nervous. He showed me a lot of things I had to work on that I didn’t notice [before,]” Sagucio said. “And he showed me a lot of things that I didn’t know about myself as a person and as a player. He taught me to pay attention to the small details and give everything your all.”

An insightful comment he made that brought the Drumline members into realization is that every section is important. Without one, it can greatly impact the entire ensemble. Each and every one of the sections has a role to play to create the best ensemble it can be.

 Kuhn served as a Percussion Arranger and Captain Head for the World Champion Cavaliers, who won five High Percussion Awards and six World Championships during his tenure. He also arranges music for numerous high schools and universities across the US and Japan. Kuhn does an extensive amount of traveling, presenting and performing clinics across the US, Europe, and Japan for Innovative Percussion, Remo, Zildjian, and Yamaha. Not only is he a helpful clinician and arranger, but he was a judge for Effect Music for WGI, Winter Guard International, and other indoor percussion events across the country since 2013. Kuhn is also a member of The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, otherwise known as ASCAP.

As this is his fifth year providing clinics for Moanalua High School’s Drumline, members say that he made a huge impact on their playing and their performing mindset. On Kuhn’s last day, he reminded the Drumline to relax, trust in themselves, and push through.

Drumline member Jaileana Kamaunu listens as Bret Kuhn demonstrates proper technique. Kuhn was on campus for three days to work with the school’s marching band. Xchyler Barut photo