Everett High Band Director Gene O’Brien couldn’t say “unbelievable” and “improbable” enough on Tuesday night when he appeared before the School Committee.
And by all rights, he wasn’t wrong to stress the unbelievable nature of the invitation extended recently to the Everett High Crimson Tide music program asking them to represent Massachusetts on Dec. 7 at the 80th Pearl Harbor commemoration event in Hawaii. It’s a solemn and honorable event that, along with the band, will feature dignitaries and, likely, President Joe Biden and a number of military leaders. It will also be the last commemoration held, as the only two Pearl Harbor survivors living will be present and it has been agreed there will not be another official commemoration at the 85th anniversary.
“This started way back about two years ago and has become an invitation for us to represent Massachusetts at the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor,” said O’Brien on Jan. 19 at the School Committee meeting. “At first, that is like ‘What?’ Well, the folks that run the Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., saw how good the Everett band was when we went there and said we had to get an invite to represent the state of Massachusetts at the 2021 Pearl Harbor commemoration…This is going to be the last time they do it. There are only two survivors left from the Arizona. It’s going to be an extraordinary occurrence…It’s historic. It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done. For us to represent Everett and Massachusetts and be part of this event – it will be with us forever.”
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico and O’Brien have been working for several months to figure out how to make the trip happen, and he said he is excited to see Everett play a part in an historic occasion.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our students, and it was a month’s long process to bring us to this point,” he said. “I am so excited to see our students be a part of history as they play at Pearl Harbor. Gene O’Brien’s relationships with organizers and the reputation of our band has put our school at the top of the list and given our kids a chance to show people around the country how amazing and talented our students are. Our kids deserve this, and I am happy to be a small part of this journey. I can’t wait to be there, as we were in Washington, D.C., to see them perform for our veterans, their families, and dignitaries from around the world.”
O’Brien said the plan would be to take 100 kids this coming December to Hawaii for the occasion. He would take the entire Crimson Tide Marching Band, some of the choral students and some of the string students. The ceremony would take place on Dec. 7, and O’Brien plans to begin practicing outside in June for the event – hoping that things would be safe enough by then to begin rehearsals such as were done last summer.
The Band has a long history of accolades, going to Washington, D.C., parades seven times and, 20 years ago, playing at the Orange Bowl with a large group at the halftime of the College Football National Championship game. So, saying this is the biggest thing they’ve ever done gives quite a perspective as to what this event will be.
The School Committee was enthusiastically in favor of the request to approve the trip, and threw their full support behind it.
“I throw my full support behind this,” said School Committeeman Marcony Almeida Barros. “This is going to be amazing. I’m glad it’s in December and hopefully the pandemic, if not gone, will have subsided by then.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he would do everything in his power to help raise the money it will take to transport and provide for the band in Hawaii.
“For public school students from Everett to go to Honolulu and represent us there, that’s amazing,” he said.
“You and your young people never cease to amaze me,” said School Committeewoman Millie Cardillo.
The Committee approved the project by a 9-0 vote.
“Aloha!” quipped O’Brien before signing off from the meeting.