The Band Plays On At Saint Louis

Saint Louis School band director Bret Shimabuku and his students rehearse for their April 30th spring concert | Nathalie Walker photo

Saint Louis School band director Bret Shimabuku and his students rehearse for their April 30th spring concert | Nathalie Walker photo

Among its many highlights, Saint Louis School is often recognized for its dominating football program. But there’s another group of students at all the football games who deserve great applause – the Crusader Band, which celebrates its 130th anniversary with a spring concert April 30, at 6 p.m. in the Dr. Richard T. Mamiya Theatre.

The all-boy band is the oldest high school band in the state, officially established in 1884 under the direction of Belgian cornet virtuoso Charles Michiels.

According to vice principal Eric Young, the band performed for royalty during the Hawaiian monarchy, including King Kalakaua, Queen Liliuokalani, Princess Likelike and Princess Kaiulani. In more recent years, they played in national marching band competitions and the Fiesta Bowl. Band members also have participated in the Hawaii All-State Marching Band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Tournament of Roses Parade. They also perform at various shopping centers throughout the island and in local parades.

Currently, there are 33 students in the high school band and about 50 in the middle school band. They are led by teacher and band director Bret Shimabuku, who is in his fourth year at Saint Louis.

“Being involved in band, it’s a group effort that unites the students,” says Shimabuku. “It’s very sensory oriented. They have to read the notes and decode it into sound through their instrument. They have to understand their role and what everyone else is doing, and come together to make the music happen.

“Also, being in an all-boy school, it’s just a brotherly bond that they have. And the type of music we play is more masculine.”

According to Shimabuku, the Saint Louis band has gone through many changes over its 130 years, including playing with the Sacred Hearts band at one time, and growing to about 120 members at another point.

Shimabuku, who was born and raised in Makiki, has been playing music since sixth grade. His primary instrument is the guitar, but he can play every instrument he teaches in band, including the clarinet, trumpet, baritone, trombone, tuba, guitar and ukulele.

He also teaches private and group lessons, and prior to joining Saint Louis, taught at Holy Trinity and Le Jardin Academy.

“I just love music,” he says. “I love all the different styles of music and the sound of every instrument.”

In lieu of admission charge to the upcoming spring concert, donations of non-perishable food items for Aloha Harvest will be accepted at the door. The concert is about two hours long and features 10 different songs.

“We’re going to play some amazing music,” says Shimabuku. “I’m very impressed with how the band has come together. And anybody can come (not just those with Saint Louis ties).

“Also, it’s not just the band but the whole school that’s backing this event. Our committee chairman, Avery Fukeda, a 2011 graduate, has done a lot for our concert. We also will have a lot of band alumni there. There are a lot of people helping to organize this.”

For more details, email or call 739-7777.