Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Honoka’a Jazz Band Director, Gary Washburn, Staying Fit

Gary Washburn

There are many different ways to stay in shape and to keep your body physically fit.  Each week this column features people who are active and healthy.  Swimmers, runners, walkers, cyclist, yoga students and even an occasional basketball player have shared their stories with the Big Dog.

Recently I had the pleasure of hearing the Honokaa Jazz Band perform and was impressed with their music, and discovered that band instructor Gary Washburn was also in top shape.

Prior to Washburn’s 34 years with the Department of Education he played a variety of various sports while growing up.

“In Intermediate School I played baseball,” Washburn said.  “In high school I played basketball and baseball, but was junk because I didn’t like contact sports and I was afraid of the ball.”

Washburn found his calling as a music teacher and today has one of the most recognizable high school bands on the Big Island.

“I always try to have fun and encourage the kids to have fun,” Washburn said.  “Mistakes are okay if you are trying hard.”

One of the secrets to Washburn’s success in the band room is that he preaches the concept of ‘team’.

“I teach them to work as a team, to practice hard and to remember to represent themselves, their school and the community the best way they can.”

This master teacher has transformed a once very stressful job into a something less stressful.

“Teaching is as stressful as you make it,” he said.  “In the first few years it was really stressful, now three decades later, it is still somewhat stressful.”

For every performance, and there are many, Washburn worries about everything from:

Did the students remember what I told them? What to wear? Where to meet?  What time?

Did they bring their horn, music and brains?  How will they play? How is their attitude?

But everything works itself out because Washburn is organized and he knows what he has planned and what his students are going to accomplish.

Besides teaching full time Washburn also has a 5 acre farm which he tends to 100 banana trees, 75 pineapple plants and a vegetable garden.

“I am also a full time musician and we play gigs around the island,” he said.

But what impressed me the most is Washburn works as a wrangler for the Waipio Ridge Stables and much of that work accounts for his great conditioning.

If you’re a tin horn, like me, let me give you an idea of a wrangler job description.

As a wrangler Washburn takes care of the horses that people take rides on.  He feeds grooms, clean their hooves, brushes, sprays for flies, and saddles sometimes as many as 20 horses.

“After we take people on a 3 to 5 hour ride I will help get them off the horses and will return to the stable and the process reverses itself,” Washburn explains.  “That means taking two 50 pound bags of alfalfa cubes out to the herd and distributing it into feeding containers.

And why does Washburn take on the responsibilities of being a wrangler?

“It is physically hard work and the reason I do it is to stay in shape,” he said.  “It certainly is not for the money.”

Washburn also gets an additional work out in during the school day by climbing a steep hill to his band room six to ten times a day.

“The hill to the band room is 50 to 75 yards long and is a steep climb,” he said.  “Students complain all the time, of course, but I enjoy the walk because it gets me out of my classroom which has no windows and it also allows my brain to clear and my ears to rest.”

Often those treks to his band room include moving musical equipment from keyboards, to amps and speakers, to name a few.

For diet Washburn eats lots of vegetables, fruits, tofu and drinks loads of water.

“I am primarily a vegetarian and my wife is very good about giving me healthy meals, bless her heart and mine,” Washburn said. 

Of course genetics plays an important role in health and lifespan and Washburn has been fortunate in that area.

“My dad lived until he was 94 and my mom is presently 92 and still kicking hard,” he said with a grin.  “Both worked hard and stayed very active.”

Washburn will invest a great deal of time getting to know his students, their likes and dislikes, and he uses that information to entertain their interest in learning more about their goals.

“Stimulate the student’s creativity so they will go and find answers themselves instead of depending on someone else to supply the answers,” Washburn said.  “I stress fun and pride in creating music and I try to provide a basic vocational education so that the students who want to continue with music can.”

Gary Washburn is more than a successful master music instructor for the Honokaa Jazz band.  He is a contributing member of our community that not only loves music, but finds physical activity in a variety of ways.

We are all blessed to have him and the Honokaa Jazz Band on Hawai’i Island.

And on Friday should you happen to see a Vietnam Vet jogging along the coast line of Hilo Bay remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

Veterans Day 5K run/walk on Friday, 11-11-11, starting at 7:30 am from the parking area of Coconut Island. Post race refreshments will be provided by State House Representatives Jerry Chang and Clift Tsuji.   Finishers will also receive Vidration sports drink provided by Keith Aoki of Anheuser-Busch Hawaii, while supplies last.

Email the Big Dog at waiakeabigdog@aol.com.


November 7, 2011 - Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I heard this band play they are totally professional!
    All the credit goes to the Band director.

    Thanks for sharing this story.

    Comment by Troy S. | November 7, 2011 | Reply

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