February 27, 2015

‘Ain’t it fun?’ captures spirit of Scecina rock band

Jackson McLaughlin hits the right notes on guitar while John Rash, in the background, pounds the drums during a practice session of Arisan Maru, the name of the Scecina High School rock band that performs professionally. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Jackson McLaughlin hits the right notes on guitar while John Rash, in the background, pounds the drums during a practice session of Arisan Maru, the name of the Scecina High School rock band that performs professionally. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

(Editor’s note: The Criterion offers its monthly salute to the success stories of Catholic schools in the archdiocese.)

By John Shaughnessy

As soon as drummer John Rash sets the beat and lead singers Jessica Navarro and Chastin Henley step up to the microphones, it’s clear that Arisan Maru isn’t a usual high school band.

Soon the music room at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis is rocking as the other members of the group share their sounds—Jackson McLaughlin getting down on guitar, Audrey Petrone picking on bass, Eamon Hegarty pounding the keyboard and Alex Verbarg blaring away on trumpet.

It all blends into the band’s bouncy, lively rendition of Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun”—three words that capture the spirit of what is believed to be the only extracurricular rock band sponsored by a school in Indiana.

Not that that distinction matters much to the members of the rock band who perform professionally at parish festivals, county fairs and community events. What matters most is the joy of performing together, and the reaction of the audiences who come to hear them.

“I love seeing people smile when we play,” says John, the drummer. “And it’s good to be with people who like the same things I do. At practice, we can be ourselves, act like one group, and experiment with different things. Those are the things that make me happy.”

Lead singer Jessica nods and adds, “When we’re playing, I feel good knowing that people are enjoying us. When we hear applause from people, I’m rocking out.”

So are the members of the track team who have chosen to warm up outside the music room before an indoor practice on a bitterly cold afternoon. There’s a bounce to the athletes’ steps as they listen to the band play.

Then there’s the reaction of 1-year-old Donnie Glowinski Jr., the son of the band’s moderator, Donnie Glowinski. Baby Donnie just breaks into a natural bop as he stands by the band’s sound system.

“They are crazy talented,” says Glowinski, who teaches theater, choir, band and orchestra at Scecina. “We’re at that point now where they are professional. They learn music so well, and they play so well together. It’s a rare thing for a high school band to have that musical maturity.”

Progressing to that level has taken time, and perhaps no one represents that progression more than Jessica. Now a senior, the student who hates speaking in public and making presentations in class couldn’t imagine herself performing on stage when she was a freshman. But she decided to give it a try when someone told her she had talent as a singer.

When the group performed at a school pep rally and received positive feedback from other students, she embraced the spotlight. And that feeling has continued in public performances, including during the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon when the group is one of the bands who line the route, making music and giving a lift to the 20,000 runners who pass.

“I have to get up at three in the morning for it, and we usually don’t perform until 10, but I love it,” she says. “There’s so much energy among the runners that the tiredness goes away. One time, a runner left the course and gave me a two-dollar bill. Playing for the Mini-Marathon is a memory I’ll always have.”

As for the name of the group—Arisan Maru—that’s in memory of Father Scecina. According to the school’s website, “During World War II, Father Scecina was among the many POWs who lost his life on a Japanese imperial ship,” a ship that was named the Arisan Maru.

While that memory is sobering, the memories that the members of the group are creating are joyful.

“It’s made my experience here at Scecina,” says John, also a senior. “I don’t play sports so this is an extracurricular [activity] I participate in. I like to think I’m good at it, and I’ve made some good friends.”

Jessica adds, “We all hang out with different groups, but we’re all very close. I consider us as a family.”

That sense of family shows in the way that the other band members want to make sure that the eighth member of their group, guitar player Kevin Walters—who had to miss this band practice because of wrestling practice—is mentioned in this story.

Parent volunteer Rob Rash has also seen that sense of family in action.

“I recall two incidents where a band member was experiencing a personal loss or conflict,” says Rash, the father of John and an assistant superintendent of Catholic education for the archdiocese. “Each time, the members literally rallied around their band mate in a show of, ‘we got your back.’ ”

The senior Rash also learned another lesson from being involved with the band, which has a pipeline for its future with the formation of two younger groups. The lesson came in the early 2000s as Rash and the band’s original moderator, John Riley, were reacting to what they saw as the lack of organization and discipline among band members at that time.

“This member said to me, ‘Mr. Rash, remember, this is supposed to be fun. Don’t let the adults squeeze the fun out of this,’ ” Rash says. “I consider that the best advice for anyone who works with kids.”

As the band finishes its rendition of “Ain’t It Fun,” the joy shows on the faces of the band members as they get ready for the next song.

“This is really fun,” John says. “This is something we love to do.”

 

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