Leaping from Song to Dance

Dylan Morikawa, Contributing Writer

Dylan Morikawa (12) (Na Hoku Staff)

When I was a young boy, my father took me into the city to see the Marching Band. Both [of] my parents were part of the marching band at their own schools and were excited to expose me to my future band, the Moanalua Marching Band. Something about the fluidity of the guard, the way the instruments all worked together spoke to me, and from then on, I was dead set on getting a place down on that field.

Fast forward to 7 years later, and I’m sitting in a crowded room alongside 50+ percussionists. I remember the clamminess of my palms as we got our audition music and the feeling of my stomach twisting in knots at the idea of meeting some many new people. 

After completely flubbing my audition for the tenor drum, I was placed into the front ensemble. At first, I was very disappointed, but I quickly warmed up to my new section quickly. My section leaders were very kind, as were all of the other freshmen who joined alongside me. Key instruments actually turned out to be really fun to play, and smashing the gong was exhilarating. 

For two years I steadily increased my musical repertoire. I learned how to properly pull the sound out of a triangle so that it would sound warm or cold. I learned how to play the cymbals so that their resounding crash was as loud as it was pure. I learned how to aim my mallets and prep my hands so that I could hit each key, no matter how thin. By the end of my second year, I was selected as a soloist for our Fourth Movement and had been promoted to section leader. 

Dylan Morikawa (12) performing with rifles in the Sound of Music show. (Photo courtesy Moanalua Color Guard Tech Staff)

It was here that I fell in love with performance. The rush of adrenaline from the sound of the crowd’s cheering and the blinding lights of the football stadium was like no other. It was one of the things that made all the sweat and tears, the body aches, and the sleepless nights worth it. The support from the crowd, and our family, pushed us to greatness. The pride that fills your body when you know you put your all into something and it became something truly great we pursued every year.

By junior year, band became an easy routine. Every day we would meet 10 minutes before practice and gather for announcements. At 3:00, we would move to a stretching block for 15 minutes and after we were nice and limber, we separate for sectionals, where we would cycle through the basics; playing on tempo, building basic patterns into more complex techniques, getting our bodies used to the specific movements. After warm-ups we transitioned into our show work, zeroing in on one or two sections to perfect by the end of the day. It was comfortable.

Then 2022 came. To ensure the band had enough new leadership, we decided to hand off the position of section leader to an extremely promising rookie. At first, I felt upset about losing my position; it felt like everything I had been working towards had been for nothing. My sister finally came to me one day and proposed I hop sections and audition for color guard. I had always admired our color guard, and the way their movements and dancing molded the story of the music. Three of my best friends had joined my freshman year, and they urged me to join them. 

I felt conflicted. Do I stay behind and sacrifice this potential path, or do I leave behind the comfort of what I know and reach for new horizons? I was passionate about both, but I finally settled on the latter and attended a demo for riflery. After a month of learning the basics, we were given our audition routine and a date for our audition. The clamminess of my palms and the stomach-knotting were still there, but something felt right about spinning with a rifle instead of holding a mallet, dancing instead of marching, about expressing yourself instead of expressing an idea. After what felt like months (it was 2 days), we got the acceptance email and we were ecstatic. We set ourselves on perfecting our new skills.

Weapons are so different from any instrument. You funnel the music into the equipment and through your body and conform to the sound of the music. You let your body tell the story of the music instead of creating the music yourself. You plie and soute and jazz walk instead of straight leg marching. You move your bodies to call attention to the individual quirks of each member while the movement of the marching band is dead set on conformity and the creation of dazzling shapes. Everything was different.

And yet, everything is the same. Sure the surface-level instrument and role may be different, but nothing changed. We still met before practice for announcements and we still had a stretching block 15 minutes in (though guard was much more focused on flexibility). We still separated for sectionals and had larger ensemble practices where we all performed together. We still practiced the basics, built patterns into complex techniques, and warmed up our bodies. We still perfected our show work for hours upon hours. But above all else, the people were the same.

Photo courtesy Moanalua Color Guard Tech Staff

Just like in the front ensemble, we became a family in the rifle line. After spending 10+ hours a week with people, you tend to get to know the good, bad, and ugly about them. We laughed together, cried together, and fainted together; we became a unit. I valued and loved the people I worked with and knew that I could count on them no matter what. It takes unwavering trust in someone to stand within a yard’s distance of someone tossing a rifle 3 stories into the sky, just as it takes a tremendous amount of trust to be able to rely on your peers to play perfectly together.

Photo courtesy Moanalua Color Guard Tech Staff

I never expected to make this change (and at times have regretted it), and yet the lessons I have learned from the experience have made my seizing of the opportunity more worthwhile. The path to true fulfillment, I found, is never possible without a little risk.

Photo courtesy Moanalua Color Guard Tech Staff