PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - He steps on stage, takes in and releases a deep breath; pausing just for a moment. He looks out over a sea of Sailors armed with musical instruments. His hands raise, and with a smile on his face, he delivers the signal to begin playing.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet Band appointed Ira "Ike" Schab as an honorary bandmaster, Dec. 5, during a concert at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center in remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Oahu, Dec. 7, 1941.
"I was so shocked and surprised when I found out I was going to be an honorary bandmaster," said Schab. "I'm so lost for words," he added.
Schab, the sole living survivor of Navy Band Unit 13, enlisted in the Navy in 1939 after a successful tuba audition. Upon completing the Navy School of Music in Washington, D.C., he reported to USS Raleigh (CL 7) as a Musician 1st Class in 1940, homeported in Pearl Harbor. His hope: to one day become a bandmaster.
"When I first heard he requested to be a bandmaster years ago, but never received the opportunity, the first thing I did was contact our leadership in Washington, D.C., to see if we could make him an honorary bandmaster," said Lt. Kelly L. Cartwright, bandmaster of U.S. Pacific Fleet Band. "To see the look on his face and everyone in the audience made it an incredible experience."
Navy Band 13 relocated aboard USS Dobbin (AD 3) when the Raleigh went into the shipyards. During the morning of the attack, Schab spent the day passing ammunition to gunners, everyone working tirelessly to take down enemy aircraft.
"Ira's naval career and his life are the embodiment of the Navy core values of honor, courage and commitment. He held himself accountable as a Sailor, honoring his role as a musician during a challenging time in U.S. naval history. He always remained professional to overcome the challenges that the were presented." said Petty Officer 1st Class Alex Ivy, tuba instrumentalist with U.S. Pacific Fleet Band. "These are values that I too strive to live by and I will pass these lessons on to future Sailors and generations."
When Schab took the stage to conduct "Still, There" by Brett Abigana, his eldest daughter Michelle Ware said she was overwhelmed with emotion and was so proud of her dad.
"He says he doesn't cry anymore so I teared up for the both of us," Ware added.
Before Schab stepped on stage, members of the band presented him with a certificate officially giving him the title of honorary bandmaster, a lei and a U.S. Pacific Fleet Band command ball cap.
"It's truly an honor to be here and be a part of history," said Ivy. "Not only am I able to do something that only very few people get to do, but to help honor someone that went through the attack on Pearl Harbor is truly humbling. The sacrifice these guys gave is something I cannot forget."
During the concert, the band played a wide range of music from all the military service songs to Jazz from the '30s and '40s to honor the Pearl Harbor survivors in attendance.
"It's our way of acknowledging the heritage and tradition to play the same music as our forbearers," said Cartright. "I hope it was sentimental for him and he will remember that era in his life."
As the last notes filled the air, the band lowered their instruments and everyone in attendance began to clap. In a roar of applause and cheers, the newest bandmaster for the U.S. Navy departed the stage.