The Ketchikan High School Band performs at the commissioning ceremony for the Coast Guard cutter John McCormick – April 12, 2017).

Because of transportation difficulties, Ketchikan High School music teachers and administrators decided to not participate in the Southeast Regional Music Festival in Juneau. After that was announced, community members have been trying to find a way to make Music Fest happen for Kayhi. 

“We had to come to the decision to not attend Music Festival. Which, I don’t recall that ever happening in the past. No one can remember that a town has had to not attend because of the ferry schedule.”

That’s Ketchikan High School choral director Trina Purcell. She says under the original Alaska Marine Highway System schedule, Ketchikan students could have taken the ferry Malaspina, arriving in Juneau the day before Music Fest, and departing the day after. With the Malaspina out of service, she says attending became impractical since the only ferry option available is the Columbia.

“The Columbia’s schedule has been altered somewhat, but the way it looks now, we would be gone from Ketchikan for 11 days, which is more that we can afford to be gone. Eight days of school. It’s a lot of expense for parents to send money with their kids for food that long. It requires eight nights of housing in Juneau. Chaperones would be gone eleven days, and eight days of work.”

About 120 Kayhi students planned to participate in Music Fest, and Purcell says there would not be enough seats on a single airplane flight to accommodate all students and chaperones, and flying would be cost prohibitive.

In a notice sent to parents, Purcell and band director Deidra Nuss explained other options that were considered, but either were impractical or did not work out.  Purcell says since the announcement was made, things have changed.

“Yesterday it was, ‘We’re not going,’ and today a lot of people are moving and shaking and trying to come up with ideas and miracles. At this point I wouldn’t rule anything out. A miracle could happen. Because we have great people in our community who have great ideas and are connected to different people and different organizations.”

Students, teachers, parents and alumni have been rallying to come up with solutions.  A public Facebook group was created on Wednesday – Kayhi to Music Fest 2018 – and as of Thursday afternoon, more than 600 people were members. 

Image from the Facebook group – Kayhi to Music Fest 2018

Supporters are suggesting fundraisers, creating a Go Fund Me account, and donations of air miles. Several parents and students contacted House District 36 Representative Dan Ortiz who spoke on the House floor. Ortiz began by requesting to speak “on a threat to an educational opportunity and cultural tradition.”

“The cutbacks that have been made to the Marine Highway System are having a direct impact, and a negative impact, on, in this case, the students of Southeast Alaska.”

Ortiz spoke about the importance of students developing skills and talents through competition.

“What is going to be the impact of the fact that this year the Region V Music Festival will not nearly have the level of participation that it’s had in years past, simply because the Marine Highway System isn’t able to deliver the students to that particular event.”

Parent and former Kayhi student Pat Stack says his son, a Kayhi senior, texted him telling him the trip was cancelled. Stack says he took to Facebook, along with others, to spread the word. He says students also are getting involved, contacting legislators and celebrities.

“My son told me yesterday that his fellow students have contacted Oprah (Winfrey) and Ellen (DeGeneres).”

Stack says there has been great local support and many ideas suggested. He believes a solution will be found and Kayhi students will find a way to attend Music Fest.

“We are in turbulent times right now, our high schoolers need to know that if they pull together, positive things can come from it. And this community is doing that. I also think this is going to be one of those moments where they’re going to look back when they come across a struggle in their future lives, and be like, ‘Hey, we can overcome this, because we’ve done it before.’”

Stack says once they receive word from Kayhi administrators on what is needed, those spearheading efforts will develop a strategy for moving forward.


Facebook page – Kayhi to Music Fest 2018 –