POIPU — When the name “Next Generation” was announced as the winner in the elementary school category of “Battle of the Bands,” the crowd roared — and Isadora Luz beamed.
“I feel … I can’t even explain,” the young guitarist said, grinning Saturday night after the completion of the music competition at Kauai Christian Fellowship.
Luz was joined by band members Gwyneth Adams, Rumi Way, Halia Laney-Tinder and Jacob Turner, all of Hanalei School, as they had the crowd of 200 whistling, cheering and applauding to their version of “Spirits” by the Strumbellas.
She said she was nervous at first, but “then when I got up and sang, I was happy.”
“It was amazing,” she added.
Way, lead vocalist, and guitarist was proud.
“We worked really hard for this,” she said. “I’m really happy about it. Like, really happy.”
Eight bands, four in the elementary school contest and four in the middle school, took the stage under the lights before family and friends rooting for them.
They spent the past several months preparing for the Battle of the Bands, the culminating event of Adopt-A-Band, an after-school program funded by Aloha Angels, a benevolent group that funds educational initiatives on Kauai.
Adopt-A-Band is run by Bandwagon Music Center, in which participating students work with coaches and learn to play instruments in a rock band setting. They were also provided with transportation to and from Bandwagon centers.
Battle of the Bands saw students jamming away as they belted out strong vocals, ripped through guitar solos, delivered on drums, boomed on bass and cranked up the keyboards.
“Blue Turtles” from Wilcox Elementary won the crowd over with an original song, “Blue Turtles,” as they sang softly. The “Knights of Ni” from Kapaa Middle School, delighted everyone with their version of “Tainted Love.”
Ron Margolis, a musician, one of the judges and who leads Aloha Angels, was delighted with how the evening turned out before an enthusiastic audience.
“I think the kids had a fabulous time,” he said. “They must feel really great.”
Skill level, originality and stage presence were among the factors to determine the winners.
Margolis said for the kids to turn out such music in a short time, just four or five months, was “spectacular.”
He said Adopt-A-Band gives the kids an opportunity to make friendships, work as a team and learn music quickly.
“It’s a real testament to this approach to music,” he said.
“Balut Bangaz” from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, composed of Ryder Curry, Lilia Ramos, Ty Kajihara, Korban Curry and Keoni Cannizzaro III, took home first place in its division. They performed an original number, “Balut Barrage.”
“It makes me so happy, but I’m like surprised at the same time,” said Ramos, who played guitar. “I feel this is a great opportunity to practice more and more and get better at my instrument.”
Ramos, who hopes to pursue a musical career, had doubts they would win.
“But we practiced a lot,” she said.
Cannizzaro, who played electric guitar, also wore a chicken outfit and squawked several times — but not just for attention.
“I think it was a big part of getting us this win,” he said. “Stage presence and audience, they all loved it.”
He was pleased to win.
“It means everything I’m so proud.”
Brothers Ryder, on drums, and Korban, on keyboards, said they thought the band nailed it.
“I felt like we did really good,” Ryder said.
“I thought it all mixed together well,” Korban added.
The winning bands got to keep the instruments they learned to play in Adopt-A-Band.
“This went so great. we’re so proud of the kids,” said Jeremy Hartshorn, founder and owner of Bandwagon with wife Julie. “There were some bands we were a little nervous about and the way they rose to the occasion, they just blew our socks off.”
“Seeing the looks on their faces as they received these instruments is the best thing ever,” he said.
Battle of the Bands at the elementary level included two bands from Hanalei School and one each from Kilauea and Wilcox schools.
Middle schools bands came from Chiefess, Waimea Canyon, and two from Kapaa.
Hartshorn said The West Side 4 from Waimea overcame many challenges, including traveling to Lihue to practice and forming one band from two on short notice.
“These guys are warriors,” he said.
Bandwagon has its main center at Kukui Grove Center and a second location in Kilauea.
Hartshorn said they love sharing their passion for music with youth and watching them develop. It’s about more than music, he added. It’s about “being an agent of positive change on Kauai.”
“When people donate to us, this is what we’re able to do,” he said. “We love to work with the kids. We hope they get to keep coming back.”