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Vol. LXV, No. 47
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
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PHS Studio Band Asked to Play at Ceremonies Commemorating the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Ellen Gilbert

By invitation of the Governor of Hawaii, the Princeton High School (PHS) Studio Band will participate at 70th anniversary ceremonies commemorating the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Over the years, the PHS Studio Band has won its share of awards, including First Prize at the 2010 Berklee Jazz Festival. They have travelled widely, including, said Princeton High School (PHS) music teacher and band leader Joe Bongiovi, trips to Italy, Monterey, Orlando, and Boston. They’ve also played at two inaugural balls, but the distance and occasion seem particularly special this time. “You could hear and feel the excitement in the room at the orientation meeting last week for band students and their parents,” said Mr. Bongiovi.

“It’s a big undertaking,” he added. What with instruments and amplification equipment to transport, the need to pay attention to who eats vegetarian and who has allergies, it takes a sense of humor to coordinate a trip like this. “It’s hurry up and wait,” he said half-jokingly. “You have to be flexible and have the right attitude.”

Logistical planning begins long before band and orchestra trips actually take place. No district monies are used, so travel expenses must be met by the students, with help from regular bake sales and other fund raising events.

For this trip the band will be away from December 3rd through the 10th. Mr. Bongiovi was not yet sure about available internet connections for broadcasting the parade, concert, and ceremonies in which the band will participate, but he promised that at least some of it would be digitally preserved for later access. Four sets of parents aren’t taking any chances; they are traveling to Hawaii on their own to attend the concerts in person. Mr. Bongiovi, a school nurse, and one other adult will be accompanying the 33 freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. In addition to the Pearl Harbor events, the band will play two additional concerts, one at the University of Hawaii, and another at a local school.

While the exact program has not been firmed up yet, Mr. Bongiovi said that they would be playing big band selections from 1941. After doing his homework, he reported that music from that year includes “Take the A Train”; “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and “In the Mood.”

In addition to the mandatory meeting with parents, jazz band members also spent a recent hour learning more about the history of Pearl Harbor and World War II. Their guides were U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Peter G. Knight, and Princeton resident and armed forces veteran Herb Hobler.

“Imagine the calamity of that day,” said Mr. Knight as he described the sudden attack on the American forces stationed at Pearl Harbor. Using the code phrase “Climb Mt. Niitaka,” the Japanese approached “in silence.” It was, Mr. Knight noted, “harder to discern intentions than capabilities,” and the number of deaths and degree of damage was stunning. The band will get to visit the memorial that has been constructed at the remains of the U.S.S. Arizona, a battleship that was badly damaged in the attack.

While the battle may have been a “tactical win” for Japan, said Mr. Knight, it was “a strategic failure” that only “temporarily derailed the ability of the U.S. fleet to operate.”

Mr. Hobler, who was a Princeton sophomore at the time of the attack, recalled the appearance, “within a week or two,” of recruiters on campus. He quickly enlisted, and students listened with rapt attention to his descriptions of undergoing training for war, language immersion, and the times when the announcement “all hands to battle stations” meant the real thing, not a drill. Back home, one depository on Palmer Square collected empty cans to be made into ammunition, and another was for used grease. Fuel was being rationed, so an annual Princeton-Yale football game was played at Yankee Stadium, because it was accessible by train.

“Make sure you see all the memorials,” Mr. Hobler counseled the band.

To learn more about the Studio Band visit

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