Manta Ray Band brings home Sweepstakes Trophy


The 45-member delegation of the Saipan Southern High School’s Manta Ray Band and its percussion ensemble were adjudged the champion once more and were bestowed the perpetual Sweepstakes Trophy at the 2014 Tumon Bay Music Festival in Guam over the weekend.
The prestigious award was jointly awarded to the band and the percussion ensemble, which according to the adjudicators score sheets, tied for the top honor this year.

Five SSHS ensembles have earned this distinction in the 10-year history of the festival—in 2008, 2009, 2011, and two for 2014.

“We are glad to be home in the CNMI! I am so happy for the band members. Their hard work and dedication was rewarded last night at the award ceremony which followed the command performances at the Agana Shopping Center,” said the band’s musical director and conductor, William DeWitt, upon arriving on island.

This year, the SSHS group swept 10 gold medals in various categories: SSHS Manta Ray Concert Band (HS band division command performance winner); SSHS percussion ensemble; SSHS Rock Band “FLOW”; SSHS mixed wind ensemble; SSHS trombone quartet; SSHS clarinet quartet; SSHS flute soloist, Norton Skerei; SSHS euphonium soloist, Allen Junseo Park (command performance winner, solo and small ensemble competition); SSHS vocal soloist, Angela Cruz; and SSHS marimba soloist, Ryan Cole.

DeWitt said that all 45 members participated in select ensembles such as the TBMF Honor Band and the Tumon Bay International Wind Orchestra where they received encouragement and mentorship from Wayne James, Atsushi Ozawa, Dr. Jeffrey Boeckman, and the intrepid Dr. Roman Rudnytsky who will be in the CNMI this week to do an encore piano performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the Manta Band next Saturday night in a concert sponsored by the Friends of the Arts.

With this latest achievement of the CNMI students, DeWitt said they truly deserve the continued support of everyone on the islands.

“I would like to congratulate all of the other Saipan schools who participated and performed their very best for the judges. It is abundantly clear that our CNMI PSS students are truly outstanding and deserve an even greater outpouring of support commensurate with the level of success they demonstrate each year in regional or international settings. These young people are the finest ambassadors we can send, showcasing how special our islands truly are,” said DeWitt.

Besides the SSHS Manta Ray Band, PSS also sent two other music groups that also brought home distinction and honor to the CNMI—last year’s festival champion Marianas High School Rhythm ‘N Harmony and the Koblerville Elementary School’s Umang Glee Club, which bagged gold awards in the high school choir division and elementary school choir division, respectively.

DeWitt recognized the presence and support extended to the SSHS delegates during the weeklong competition that ended on Saturday, March 15.

“We were thrilled to have numerous alumni and former SSHS staff and administrators in attendance last night to celebrate the band’s achievements. Mr. Jesse Tudela, the former principal who led the effort to bring the band to London for the 2012 Olympics, was among them,” he disclosed.

This year’s festival was the 10th consecutive coordinated by founder Max Ronquillo, conductor of the Guam Territorial Band and the 721st Army National Guard Band. He was assisted by several SSHS band graduates who now live in Guam: Donovan Tudela, Elejohn Solomon, Mereylen Denora, Joeray Delacruz, Naomi Cabrera, and David Bautista.

The SSHS Manta Ray Band has been participating in the Guam music festival for many years and has had a bright history of ruling the competition as its overall champion.

The band has also won silver in an international music competition in New York City and has performed at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. In July 2012, the band made history when it performed at the Olympic Games in London.

Moneth G. Deposa | Reporter

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