I’ve been in the Mustang Band since my freshman year, when SMU almost went to a bowl game. I can honestly say that I can’t think of a better way to end my career as a member of the band than by going on this trip to cheer on the team.
Since the first season was such a heartbreak, the last two seasons somewhat painful, SMU was definitely due our time to prove what we could do. And, boy, did we ever do it. But first, I guess, let’s talk about Hawaii.
The band is a great group of individuals that has become an extended family for me. I can’t think of any other group I’d rather go to Hawaii with (save my biological family, of course. Sorry, family, hope you’re surviving the blizzard in Pennsylvania!).
Arrival in Hawaii
For this trip, the band was split into a number of groups. My group left at 6 AM and arrived first on the Islands. This last summer, I crossed the Atlantic to study at Oxford; it only seemed fitting to cross the other ocean for another amazing experience: the first SMU bowl appearance since 1984. We arrived without any hiccups, checked into our hotel, and began to explore.
The first thing I did in Hawaii was visit the beach, which by far was the nicest beach I’ve ever been to. The water was very comfortable and surprisingly still. That, however, did not deter me from renting a surfboard. I had never tried surfing before, and I wasn’t very successful, but at least I managed to get a little sun while waiting for the next wave to sweep out of the crystal clear ocean.
Later that night, the band (or at least the members who had made it to the islands by that point) played at a pep rally for the football team. I don’t think I can express how excited everyone in the band is about the maturing football program at SMU. What June Jones is doing for our program is exciting, and I believe he’s right about what he said about the Hawaii Bowl that night: It really is one of the best bowls in the nation. Maybe he’s a little biased, but I feel that after my experiences on the Island, I have to agree.
Showing our support
The next day, part of the band visited the Hickam Air Force Base for another pep rally. The servicemen and women seemed very appreciative of the entertainment the band provided. That’s one of the best things about being a musician – there really is something wonderful about being able to entertain people with music, especially those who deserve it like our armed forces. It’s nice to give thanks to those who defend our country.
After that pep rally, we had the rest of the day off. Some of my fellow seniors and I wound up on the beach, listening to the waves crash against the shore as we reminisced about past experiences. We dared to enter the water, which actually wasn’t too chilling even at night. Even though we were on Hawaii, a tropical paradise, it was made all the more special by the people I was with. Moments like these happen too infrequently and should always be cherished.
Visiting Pearl Harbor
In the morning on the next day, we visited Pearl Harbor. After touring the museum and watching a brief video, we sailed out to the USS Arizona memorial. The simplicity of the memorial’s design is striking and beautiful, and everyone who goes to Hawaii should visit. I’m not the most patriotic person, but seeing the names of those killed on that day in 1941 was a somber experience. The ocean has claimed the hull of the USS Arizona with barnacles and sea urchins, a reminder of the resilience of life against destruction, and the ship leaks a tiny bit of oil every day, which creates a rainbow effect on the surface.
After the visit to the memorial, we had perhaps the most efficient practice in Mustang Band history. I think everyone wanted to get back to the hotel so we could continue our exploration of the island. We ran through our pre-game show, loaded the buses, and got back to the hotel in time to prepare for our luau.
Two band members (fellow trumpet players, actually) climbed on stage at the luau and danced, which was absolutely ridiculous. Who knew band kids actually had rhythm? There was a fire dancer at the show, who was amazing. Thankfully they didn’t ask anyone from SMU to try to do any of that, although the band’s twirler Kayli has been asking for flaming batons for two years. Something about a fire code prevents that from happening, but it would be a cool effect, right?
On Christmas Eve, we packed up our belongings and made our way to Aloha Stadium to witness the first Mustang bowl victory in 25 years. This was truly a great moment of the trip, and pretty much gave us all what we wanted for Christmas: a bowl win. The team played the best I have ever seen them play, and Kyle Padron broke a school passing record. Cheers to the team; without them, we wouldn’t even have gotten to go to Hawaii. I know they worked hard this season, and I’m excited to see what next year is going to look like. Liberty Bowl, anyone?
Peruna was there, looking good in a Hawaiian t-shirt and later in a Santa hat. It was nice that Peruna tried to blend in a little bit; maybe he picked out the shirt from the International Market in Waikiki?
All in all, this was a great experience. Our assistant director Tommy Tucker was at the Aloha Bowl the last time we went to a bowl in 1984; he talks about the thrill of watching the football team, and how unforgettable it was to be witness to the last bowl victory before the death penalty. I now understand what he must feel like when he talks about that game, because this game is historical. I was witness to the beginning of SMU’s return to glory, and things look only to get better from here.