Band director Anna Zaino was not sure if the letter that showed up in her Johnsburg High School mailbox, inviting the school’s marching band to Hawaii the following December was legitimate or not.
The January letter invited the school to represent Illinois on Dec. 7, 2022, in the annual Pearl Harbor Parade.
And that is what 25 students from Johnsburg School District 12 with Zaino and six parent chaperones, now in Hawaii, are set to do Wednesday in remembrance of the 1941 attack.
On Monday, the band played military and patriotic songs on the USS Missouri as a kickoff for its trip. On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the band will play as part of a mass band and choral performance at about 4:30 p.m. local time, and then march in the 6 p.m. parade.
The event marks the day in 1941 when 2,403 Americans were killed during a surprise attack by the Japanese on the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, which led to the U.S. declaring war on Japan the next day and its entrance into World War II.
Still, Zaino is not sure how the school and her band ended up on the program’s radar.
“I didn’t apply for this at all,” Zaino said.
After the letter arrived, Zaino emailed other schools in North Carolina and New Jersey that have participated in Pearl Harbor events in the past, based on information she found on the website.
It was real, band directors from the other schools told her.
“I am all about community spirit, and I get to represent Johnsburg in this momentous event. That is just amazing,” Zaino said.
Students needed $1,450 each for their hotel, some meals, transportation and planned tours during the trip. That meant fundraising for those who could not afford the trip out of pocket.
In addition to an online fundraiser, the band received donations from both the Johnsburg Lions Club and the Johnsburg Educational Partnership Foundation.
The band sold branded spirit wear and “everybody’s favorite, butter braids,” Zaino said. Donations and fundraisers brought in about $16,000 of the nearly $60,000 overall cost.
Preston Michael, a 16-year-old junior who plays in the band’s drum line, is one of the students who raised money to cover a portion of his trip.
About 90% of his trip was funded through verticalraise.com, which works much like GoFundMe, asking people through email and social media to donate to cover an individual student’s cost.
“Once we started the fundraiser, my community, family and friends stepped in,” Micxael said. “It is the coolest thing in the world. People would do small donations and that started to build up. This community really helps the people they like.”
Henry Ray, 16 and a junior, will be joined by his chaperone parents, Ann and Steve Ray.
“I see as a really great opportunity and important to our band,” Henry Ray said.
Amy Ray was a little concerned when a notification popped up on her phone reporting the Mauna Loa eruption that began Nov. 27. That volcano is on the Big Island of Hawaii, not the island of Oahu where they are going. It is the first time the volcano has erupted in 40 years – just in time for their Hawaii trip.
The students get “the opportunity to have such an historical experience. It is not just fun, it is also educational. I have always wanted to see the ships at Pearl Harbor, and it is great that he gets that opportunity,” Amy Ray said.
Amy Robb also is chaperoning, joining her son, Grant, a senior saxophonist.
Robb also teaches high school history in Wauconda.
“I teach World War II, Pearl Harbor and the Dole plantation,” she said. “I teach about Sanford Ballard Dole,” the first president of Hawaii and part of the coup that ousted Hawaii’s monarchy.
The plantation, along with a tour, dinner and show at the Polynesian Cultural Center, was on their agenda Tuesday.
Some of the students “may never do anything like this again in their lifetimes. The opportunity that brings them there in itself is amazing,” Robb said.
For her students, her trip there can help them connect better with the events of Dec. 7, 1941, Robb said.
“Any personalized information and photos that I can bring to them, it brings it to life more. This is a place you need to experience first hand instead of just talking about it,” Robb said.
The event will be streamed at the Pearl Harbor Parade website at pearlharborparade.org. With the time difference, the parade will start at 10 p.m. The Johnsburg marching band holds the 59th spot in the procession.