Carrying The Beat To Ohio

Niu Valley Middle School’s 10-member percussion ensemble is preparing to fly to Dayton, Ohio for the Winter Guard International Percussion World Championships.

And the Lancer group will be the youngest drummers there.

They are bolstered by months of preparation, fundraising and support from parents, students, state Sen. Sam Slom, Senate clerk Carol Taniguchi and Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

“Whether or not you win the WGI, in my eyes, you are already world class,” Slom told the group of seventh- and eighth-graders, who will compete April 19-21 in a national arena of 100 teams and 11,000 young percussion-ists. Along with those words of encouragement, the Lancers bring high expectations about going all the way to the top.

“We’ve never been there before, so we don’t really know what to expect,” admitted Zachary Morita, the school’s percussion ensemble director. “But we’re hoping to do very well. It is our goal to win our division and take first place.”

Teams at the Ohio event are broken down into divisions with each team competing in preliminary rounds, and the successful ones moving on to final rounds. Niu Valley is the only middle school in the high school-laden Scholastic Concert Open division. It also is the only team from Hawaii.

Fundraising has been a big part of the planning process, including a “Feel the Beat” concert March 11 that featured dinner and performances by students and established musicians and percussion-ists, such as Rhythm Summit with Kenny Endo and renowned saxophonist Gabe Baltazar.

The ensemble is still accepting donations for its travel fund. Checks may be made payable to the school and sent to 310 Halemaumau St., Honolulu, HI 96821.