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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 4 , 2002 - Issue 60


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Hopi Band Delights Audiences

by Stan Bindell Navajo-Hopi Observer
Polacca, AZ - The Hopi Junior High School band and the Hopi High School band performed recently at the Hopi elementary schools. Blair Quamahongnewa, the new band teacher at Hopi High School, was impressed with the performances. He said the idea was to recruit sixth and seventh grade students so when they attend Hopi Junior High they will be interested in band. "But our kids were also ready to perform and needed a venue," he said.

Quamahongnewa credits Hopi High Principal Dave Herbert and Hopi Junior High Principal Glenn Gilman with setting up the performances at the feeder schools. The band and guitarists performed at Second Mesa Day School, Hopi Day School, Hotevilla-Bacavi Community School and Polacca Day School. Quamahongnewa said the performers from Hopi Junior High and Hopi High enjoyed performing for local schools and want to do it again. Likewise, the student audiences enjoyed the performances as they cheered, laughed and applauded the young performers.

"Every school showed their appreciation," he explained. "When we played the Mexican Hatdance, I was surprised because the audience started joining in by clapping. We started to use that, and it worked out really well. I had no idea how this was going to work." Quamahongnewa said the kids loved being on stage and having people respond to them. "They loved the attention," he said. "This is good for the audience and kids. It's a good event and we want to do it again. When I run into kids and parents in the store they say they enjoyed it and want to know when we're going to go again. This had a huge impact on the young kids."

Quamahongnewa said this is one way of building the program up. "We've had some instruments just sitting there, but now they're starting to be used," he said.

Quamahongnewa said some high school or junior high school bands perform at festivals, theme parks and tours. "We want to get to that level, but we're probably three to four years away," he said.

Quamahongnewa, who started playing guitar 16 years ago when he was 14, said he prefers for the student musicians to play solos - rather than in a band - because that is the best way for them to show their ability. Quamahongnewa studied the guitar at Northern Arizona University where he earned a Bachelor's in Music Education. Previously, his father was a drummer in a band and he became fascinated with the guitar.

While attending Brophy Prep, he taught himself the guitar through magazines, books and videos. "I like the guitar because it's portable, anyone can play it, and people like it," he said. Since August, he has been teaching his 33 guitar students at Hopi High School the blues, jazz, rock, classical and flamenco music. He added that there are different styles within each of these types of music. "There's a lot we didn't get to, so that's what we'll be working on next semester," he said.

Quamahongnewa said the beginning guitar class will continue to work on fundamentals while the advanced guitar class will learn music theory as they have to be more proficient in order to get the most out of their styles. Aside from teaching music full-time, Quamahongnewa is a working musician as he performs in two bands. Nations Ensemble plays jazz, rock and blues. The other members are Loma Ishii from First Mesa, Jeff Moon from Sedona and Farron Joshyesva from Second Mesa. Nations Ensemble has played in the Flagstaff area, the Hopi Reservation, California and New Mexico.

Descendant plays heavy metal and rock. This band formed for the Hopi to Taos run about four months ago. They perform mostly on the Hopi Reservation, but they have also performed in Winslow and Tuba City. Joshyesva and Quamahongnewa are in this band along with Charlie Lewis and Darion Kootswatewa, both from Second Mesa; and Wallace Youvella Jr., from First Mesa.

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