Wednesday, October 2, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Kamiak band to march in N.Y.

Times Snohomish County bureau

MUKILTEO — It has played at Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration. It has marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland.

But next month, 187 current members of the much-laureled Kamiak High School Show Band will ascend to perhaps the greatest fame an American high-school band can attain: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

The band, including the Kamiak High School Dance Team and Color Guard, will rise at 2 a.m., brave the famously chilly weather and play, among other things, the 1970s rock of British group Emerson, Lake and Palmer (as interpreted for clarinets, trombones and drum corps) for a TV audience of millions, under the helium-inflated majesty of giant floating Snoopy and Garfield balloons.

The band's members will be part of an American tradition, a spectacle that has come to symbolize the advent of the holidays and stores' seasonal sales.

"Katie Couric is going to say my name," said Brian Steves, band director, referring to the NBC-TV personality who often hosts the parade's TV broadcast.

According to Macy's organizers, the Kamiak Show Band will be the first band from Washington state to perform at the parade. To earn a spot, Steves submitted audiotapes, videotapes, a scrapbook of clippings and a band history in what he called "a rigorous application process."

But being in the Kamiak Show Band is its own rigorous process.

Before the school year begins, students go to band camp. They play together an hour each day in band class and an additional two hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Every fourth Saturday, band members do about eight hours of drills, and the Macy's performance will call for added "special rehearsals."

In return, they get awards, win statewide competitions and travel to such places as New York City.

Last week, in his senior band class, Steves energetically pierced the air with a conductor's baton, calling out orders to his students, whose trombones and tubas constituted a small forest of polished brass.

"At first he comes off all intense and scary," said Brynn Duke, who plays the mellophone, a marching version of the French horn. "But then you realize he's sarcastic and fun."

"But then you realize he's smaller than you are," joked Bryce Barich, a basketball player who has played trumpet since the fifth grade.

The members of the band are serious about their music. Many will pursue it in college and are vying for scholarships. Student R.J. Price is looking at colleges based on their bands.

High-school marching bands have gotten the reputation as a haven for, well, band geeks. But Kamiak band members say they get respect from the student body. It is the largest student group on campus, said Denny Goulet, a senior drum major.

"At some schools, it's a nerdy thing," he said. "But we're asked to play at every home football and basketball game, and the student body will stay and watch the halftime shows."

The band is also a huge social opportunity for its members.

"Being in band is a really good experience," said Price. "If you start out as a freshman in a 200-piece band, right away you know 200 people."

And the members do get to know each other, they said. There are the group sleeps on gym floors, Duke said, and the long bus rides together. And, said Goulet, having to change into band uniforms on street corners.

The trip to New York will be an adventure for the band, albeit with curfews, chaperones and a few "unfortunate souls that have their whole family coming along," Goulet said.

The trip, at a cost of $1,600 per student, is being paid for by the students, with personal funds or fund raising, although Steves said some loans and about $5,000 in scholarships have been given out.

Caitlin Cleary: 425-745-7808 or


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