The Saipan Southern High School’s Manta Ray Band delivered an unprecedented number of superior performances at a recent music festival in Guam where it took home more than 30 gold awards.
For Manta Band musical director and conductor William DeWitt, the consistency and overall high quality of the Manta Band’s performances was a feat of historical significance.
“Never before in the 10-year history of the festival had a single school or organization garnered the highest-ranked adjudicated scoring and/or produced the command performance winner in such a wide-ranging multitude of categories,” he said.
The recent awards achieved by its members included being No. 1 in instrumental soloist; instrumental small ensemble; jazz, rock, beyond division; in HS band division; in festival, as well as the overall 2014 Tumon Bay Music Festival sweepstakes champion.
Gold awards were also bestowed on its members including Junseo Park, command performance and euphonium solo; Angela Cruz, vocal solo; Norton Skerei, flute solo; Ryan Cole, marimba solo and mixed wind quintet (Steven Choi, horn; Emily DeWitt, bassoon; Iris Yu, clarinet; Kevin Hwang, clarinet, and Sarah Kim, flute), small ensemble; clarinet quartet (Kanani Lee, Herman Guerrero, Sung Jun Kim, and Jee Hyun Lee), small ensemble; trombone quartet (Katrina Cruz, Kun Lee, Junseo Park, and Ji Hoon Lee), and small ensemble.
The SSHS Pop Ensembles (Kanani Lee, Herman Guerrero, Sung Jun Kim, Jee Hyun Lee,Katrina Cruz, Kun Lee, Junseo Park, and Ji Hoon Lee) also bagged a gold in the jazz rock & beyond division.
SSHS Rock Band “FLOW” (Keoni Borja, A.J. Hernandez, Emmanuel Huertas, Raynalynn Alarca, Mikhail Alcantara, Art Borromeo, and Kadmiel Rey) was also honored for Highest Adjudicated in the jazz rock & beyond category; SSHS Percussion Ensemble (Yoon Jae Won, Ji Yoon Kim, Leila Hicking, Ryan Cole, Joel Jang, Art Borromeo, Yubin Park, Lica Ishida, Yeyoun Lee, Kun Lee, and Inhae Kim) for command performance, highest scoring, festival sweepstakes co-champion.
The SSHS Manta Ray Concert Band was also a gold medalist in the command performance, the highest scoring in the festival.
The band’s success this year, DeWitt said, would not have been possible without the support of so many benefactors, dedicated parents, and hard-working chaperones like Mona Maratita, Andrew Golden, Atsuko Eck, Rose Igitol, and Ted Parker. The Public School System and the Board of Education were also instrumental in the effort to send these deserving musicians to the Tumon Bay Music Festival for the fifth time in the festival’s 10-year history.
“This recent Manta Band success has not gone unnoticed by the world’s elite festivals in Sydney, New York, LA, Honolulu, and Europe. As an entire ensemble, we have been invited (audition requirements were waived based on our band’s reputation) to perform and compete at all of them in 2015, with more invitations expected soon. Economically, it is unfortunately not possible to participate in all of them,” he said.
The band just completed a successful collaboration with noted concert pianist Roman Rudnytsky on Gershwin’s iconic Rhapsody in Blue, performed both on Saipan in March and in Guam during the festival.
“Our members have received and are currently considering accepting individual invitations to participate in performance tours and festivals in the summer of 2014 at such places as the Sydney Opera House, the 70th Liberation Day parade in Guam, a worldwide music festival in Yeosu City, South Korea, a musical tour to Nagoya, Japan with the Guam Territorial Band, and the Hayward-La Honda summer band camp in San Francisco, CA,” he said.
DeWitt said those interested to financially support any of these endeavors are encouraged to contact him.
The Manta Ray Band members will also be supporting the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Saipan in June with music originating from the World War II era during the June 15 celebration at the American Memorial Park.