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It was a huge honor for the Herriman High School Choir, Orchestra, and Tour Concert Band traveling to Hawaii to share their music with military veterans.

On this episode of the Supercast, we talk to the talented students who represented the entire state of Utah with amazing performances at the National Vietnam Veterans Day Parade. They showed their pride and respect, honoring war veterans in such a meaningful way with music. It was an experience that will last a lifetime.


Audio Transcription [Music]

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. It was a huge honor for the Herriman High School Choir, Orchestra, and Tour Concert Band traveling to Hawaii to share their music with military veterans.

On this episode of the Supercast, we talk with the talented students who represented the entire state of Utah with amazing performances at the National Vietnam Veterans Day Parade. They showed their pride and respect, honoring war Veterans in such a meaningful way with their music. It is an experience that will last a lifetime.

[Music]

We're here at Herriman High School talking with Mr. Howden, our choir director, about a pretty unique experience that students were able to have over spring break. Thanks very much for taking time to talk with us.

Mr. Howden:
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell us about this experience and how it became possible.

Mr. Howden:
So it was about April-May of last year and the company that runs the commemoration historic programs, they reached out to the Time Our Band director asking our marching band if they would come and help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans coming home from the Vietnam War. And so the band director was thinking about it and he had talked to me about it, and our orchestra teacher, because once they saw that there was interest from the marching band they're like, "Oh you have a really great music department. We'd like all of you to come if you're interested." So we discussed it and decided that we would present it to the District and the School Board because it was a pretty big trip and we wanted to make sure that we had approval before we really announced it to students.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, it was taking place in Hawaii.

Mr. Howden:
Yes.

Anthony Godfrey:
Policy only allows for travel within the intercontinental United States. So as a result you had to get that approval from the Board. They were enthusiastic about it and gave a thumbs up.

Mr. Howden:
Yeah, so I was a little surprised because it was more money than normally we would do for a tour.

Anthony Godfrey:
Right.

Mr. Howden:
And it was in Hawaii so I didn't think that they would give us the approval, but the School Board was enthusiastic about it. They were excited that we had gotten the invitation and that we would represent all the aspects of music from Herriman and be able to represent our District and the state of Utah.

Anthony Godfrey:
Right, the only school from the state, and there was one from each of the 50 states is that right? Mr. Howden:
So each state had someone that was invited, but if we had for example said no, Utah wouldn't have been represented. So there was actually only five different states with Utah being one of them that was able to come and represent. But we were one of the five.

Anthony Godfrey:
Outstanding. So tell me about– I know the approval was a long time ago so this has been a long time in the making.

Mr. Howden:
Yes, so we initially went to the School Board, I think it was May of last year. And then once we got the approval, we had a parent meeting so the parents could say yes they wanted to have us participate in this, and then we just moved forward with starting making the plans for this last March.

Anthony Godfrey:
And there were a lot of fundraisers as a part of that I assume?

Mr. Howden:
Yes. Because it was such a much larger trip than normal, a normal year, we tried to start fundraising immediately in the summer, and we had several throughout almost every month leading up to the trip.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me how many students went with you. I heard in Board meeting when we honored the group that there were four planes of students.

Mr. Howden:
Yes, so we ended up splitting onto four planes because there was 216 students and then the rest were chaperone parents and staff for the marching band and the teachers so on and so forth.

Anthony Godfrey;
So 216 students.

Mr. Howden:
Yes.

Anthony Godfrey:
All told, how many humans were there along for the ride?

Mr. Howden:
It was 259.

Anthony Godfrey:
Wow, you could have chartered your own plane almost for that. Tell me about the performances. What exactly was put together? What was the format? Was it a concert? Was it a parade? How did all that work?

Mr. Howden:
Yes, so one thing that we got to do each group of the choirs, marching band, and orchestra got to perform at Pearl Harbor. That was one of the things that they had set up for us. So we each got a snippet of time to perform outside the USS Missouri. So we did that. That was one of the first things that we did there.

But then the main event was on Friday night of the trip. We had the celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans coming home. So the choirs sang all together. The orchestra played prelude, and then the marching band played with the other marching bands that were there, and the the navy band that was there. So kind of all of us participated in this big celebration. Then once that was concluded, we kind of made our way over to the the main street where the parade was taking place. Our marching band played in the parade and then the choir and orchestra students walked behind our marching band.

Anthony Godfrey:
Wow. Yeah, so you didn't walk with the cellos playing. There was not marching violin playing? Mr. Howden:
No, no we just got to smile and wave as the marching band astounded the the audience. We just got to smile and wave.

Anthony Godfrey:
It seems more practical to just walk behind and wave.

Mr. Howden:
Yes.

Anthony Godfrey:
How long have you been a choir director here?

Mr. Howden:
This is my seventh year in Herriman.

Anthony Godfrey:
Seventh year here, and were you a choir director before coming to Herriman?

Mr. Howden:
I did one year in a charter school in South Salt Lake, that was a pretty small charter school, and then came here to Herriman.

Anthony Godfrey:
So in all your years choir tour is a big deal. Travel is a big part of it but this was a unique trip. Tell me what made this trip special compared with some of the trips you've taken before.

Mr. Howden:
So this was unique for a number of reasons. One it was just such a much larger trip. Just the planning and organization side of it was much more intense than a normal year. But I also felt like there was more enthusiasm and excitement from students because of it. And I also think it was unique because normally on our trips we go and have various performance opportunities and we often set up to compete with different schools from around the United States. Kind of doing a a national competition and getting a chance to hear other groups and get feedback from judges that are outside of Utah. But on this particular trip we didn't do any of that. All of our performances and what we were going for was focused on honoring and celebrating these Vietnam Veterans which I think was a really unique opportunity for students. Because obviously, there's lots of things going on in the world but it seems a little bit removed from us now. So I think them being able to see and understand what these Veterans had gone through and how they hadn't been recognized when they came home, which is one of the reasons why Historic Programs have set this up to commemorate and to honor these Veterans who didn't have the most warm welcome when they came home initially.

Anthony Godfrey:
And were there a number of Veterans there for the event?

Mr. Howden:
Yes, there were a number of Veterans there. And actually as part of the ceremony, the leaders from our three different groups were able to take the Hawaii leis and and give them to the different Veterans that were there. They kind of went through and played the different songs– the Navy band played the different songs from each of the different sections of the United States. So like the Air Force, the Army or the Navy, and as they played, when the theme came on, those Veterans stood up. Like if they were in the Navy they stood up and so they went and put the leis on them, and in the Army, and so on and so forth. So I think it was cool for the students to see just how many there were and that these men and women had just fought so valiantly for us, not knowing kind of what was going to happen and not being very warmly welcomed home. I think it was cool for them to see and experience that.

Anthony Godfrey:
We'll talk with some students as well, but tell me what are some other reactions you heard from students and parents what was the impact of this trip.

Mr. Howden:
I think overall that the students had a great experience. I only have heard really positive things from the students just about being able to go to Hawaii, I mean number one that was a really cool experience. And then number two, getting to to see that and to honor the Veterans. And then also just participate in the parade which was also to help honor the Veterans and just see how many people were there and excited to see the students. And being able to represent Utah in such kind of a momentous occasion and event.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah, let’s talk with some students about their experiences.

Mr. Howden:
Okay, sounds good.

Anthony Godfrey:
Stay with us. When we come back more about the experiences students at Herriman High had when they traveled to Hawaii for the Vietnam Veterans Day parade.

Break:
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Anthony Godfrey:
We have three different student groups of course, Orchestra, Marching Band, and Choir, and we have a representative from each group. Please introduce yourself and tell me what group you'r from.

Ayla Raguskus:
I'm Ayla Raguskus I'm from the Orchestra.

Emily Workman:
I'm Emily Workman and I'm from Choir.

Easton Jettie:
And I'm Easton Jettie from the Marching Band.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me about the anticipation over the year. How did it feel just thinking about going to Hawaii and getting to honor Veterans of the Vietnam War?

Ayla Raguskus:
Well, it was very exciting having it announced at the end of last year, it was something to look forward to. I think for all three of us having our senior trip be in Hawaii is just super incredible, super fun. It was just exciting. Something to look forward to all year and prepare for because I know we all worked very hard preparing music for each of our groups to be able to perform and honor the Veterans.

Emily Workman:
I know for me it was really exciting at the beginning of the year too. And I tried to save all of the money that I could because it was a more expensive trip. I know that when I got there and when we got the opportunity to see the Veterans and be in the parade and be at the ceremony it was one of the most rewarding parts of my senior year and high school career itself. So it was probably one of the most memorable things that has happened to me in school.

Easton Jettie:
Yeah, it was a it was a very neat experience. Something that doesn't really get mentioned a lot is our band director at the beginning of the year actually announced to us that he had stage four cancer, and so unfortunately he wasn't able to go on this trip with us. But it was really cool. Like we just had a really hard year and it kind of just kept piling up and so when this trip got announced like we were just all super excited. We're like “Okay, awesome.” Like this is kind of exactly what we needed and we just want to go represent ourselves in this parade. Especially for those Vietnam Veterans that came home and just didn't get any of that credit.

Anthony Godfrey:
So we did talk in Board Meeting about your band director situation which I'm sure made, as you described, the experience all the more poignant. It sounds like whatever group you were part of it was a ton of work and a ton of saving and fundraising. But it also sounds like it was worth it.

Ayla Raguskus:
Yeah, it was for sure worth it. I know everyone worked really hard with fundraisers and just trying to earn as much money as they could for the trip because it was very important for us to be able to go and honor those Veterans. Because the trip wasn't just for us this time. Like normally we go on tours and it's for a performance or we're just having fun, but this time it was to honor them and that was very special.

Emily Workman:
Yeah, I think one important thing is how the whole music department worked together a lot.  I think usually people kind of separate the different departments in the program, but I think a really important part is how we did all come together for this trip and your band director and things like that. I think that's something that shouldn't go unnoticed is how we all worked together.

Anthony Godfrey:
I love that.

Easton Jettie:
Yeah, and that hard work really just paid off. I mean just being there and seeing the Veteran's’ faces and just how happy they were to just be recognized. And just especially a moment for me was when the bagpipes started playing towards the end and it was just like absolute chills. Just kind of seeing their faces and just knowing okay, this is really awesome. This is totally for them.

Anthony Godfrey;
Tell me more about the interactions that you had with Vietnam Veterans. Did it surprise you how impactful that was?

Ayla Raguskus:
It was really cool to see just how many Veterans actually showed up to the ceremony. And as Mr. Howden mentioned, having people place leis on them when their song came on and seeing how impactful it was to be able to be recognized and have all of these students from various states come and just show their support and honor them.

Emily Workman:
Yeah, one part that was really impactful for me was during the ceremony we got to hear from different Veterans and different people. It was really impactful to see the leis be placed on the Veterans and I think the really important part was when the music was being played because it showed them that we still care and we want to honor them. And it also showed us the importance of honoring them. I think everyone learned something that day whether you just heard it or saw it and that was pretty cool.

Eaton Jettie:
Yeah, just mentioning like the speakers that we got to hear from. I actually was able to speak as well. I was sitting up on stage with a couple of those people around them. Just talking to them before the ceremony started and just kind of hearing their stories, where they're from, what they did. Like there was one guy I was sitting next to, and he was actually from Vietnam and I can't remember exactly what his position was, unfortunately, but he just had a very neat story. All of them were just neat stories to tell. Just where they came from and how they got here and what impact they actually did do on the war.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me about the pieces you performed. Just maybe pick one piece that you prepared with with your group to perform and to honor Veterans.

Ayla Raguskus:
So the Orchestra played a piece called “Point Lookout”. We picked this piece, well our director picked this piece towards the beginning of the year because it has just more of a patriotic feel to it right. We've actually talked a lot about this piece in class and what we kind of want to present while playing it and the feeling we want to give off. We tried to be very, very musical with it because it was for such an important occasion and we really just tried to show the Veterans just how much we were there for them. Yeah, we just talked a lot about how we could bring more to the piece and how we could really perform it.

Anthony Godfrey:
What instrument do you play?

Ayla Raguskus:
I play the viola.

Anthony Godfrey;
And was this a particularly difficult viola piece?

Ayla Raguskus:
There were some parts that were pretty difficult but it was just a lot of teamwork to try to get all the pieces to fit together. Other parts were easy but just having everyone come together and work really hard for the performance that we gave.

Anthony Godfrey:
Great! How about you?

Emily Workman:
So our large acapella choir got to learn a song called “Measure Me, Sky”. It's definitely one of my favorite pieces that I've ever learned. There's a part in the song that says “Sky, be my depth, wind, be my width”, and to me, I kind of put together us going to Hawaii and like that song is–it's definitely for a reason in my opinion because there's no end to that song really. We end it on a super high note and it just keeps going forever and ever. I feel like that can correlate to the Vietnam Veterans and what they did for us. Even though we are remembering them now and we're like celebrating them now, it's because it will go on forever and ever. And I think that's so special to think that the things that we can accomplish and we can do they can also do and they have done and that's really important to me.

Anthony Godfrey:
I love that. And you ended on a high note literally and figuratively

Emily Workman:
Yes, yes.

Anthony Godfrey:
How about for the marching band?

Easton Jetties:
Yeah, so the marching band was a little bit different. We were actually assigned a piece, “Armed Forces on Parade”. Of course we were able to tweak it a little bit and we kind of made it our own version. One of the kind of cool moments when we got there is we knew that we would be playing with the Marine band as well as other different bands that are there as well. So the ones from Texas the ones from California, just from all over. We were all assigned the same song. During the speech portion, right before they were about to play they actually mentioned “Okay, there's different songs we're gonna play here” and they were told to stand up for each of their branch when their song was played for whatever branch of armed forces they were in. And just that moment when kind of the bands began playing. I wasn't able to conduct with them because I was still up on stage, but just kind of seeing it from the front and like everyone, all the Veterans, just standing up to their own respective song was just really awesome to see. Like “Oh, these people really like did serve and this song means a lot to them.”

Anthony Godfrey:
All three of you have practiced and performed music over the years, but I would imagine that this was a particularly impactful performance to see what it meant to the people you were performing for. Thank you very much for spending time. I'm so impressed with each of you and the work you put into this. The impact it had on you. And I'm very proud that you represented Herriman so well, Jordan District and the state of Utah. So thank you very much for working so hard to make this such a great experience.

Students:
Thank you.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.