Music from the Heart: Students Connect with Kūpuna

Despite the challenges of social distancing, Punahou music students are still finding ways to share music from the heart, with kūpuna in the community. Students from grades 8-12 have recorded personalized music videos for residents at the Kahala Nui retirement community, which include a greeting for each participating resident and a musical performance – most of them tailored to a special music request from the residents.

Alicia Scanlan, head of the Junior School Music Department, was inspired when she saw a news story on the “Made You Smile” project in Long Island, New York. She saw how school children were creating drawings, letters and music videos to send to seniors in local nursing homes to bring joy and brighten the residents’ day. “I thought if our students wanted to share their music it would be a great way to creatively and compassionately address the isolation and loneliness our kūpuna might be feeling right now,” Scanlan said. 

Scanlan teamed up with Dani Goddard, director of the Luke Center for Public Service, and Helen Chao-Casano, director of Punahou Music School, to create an outreach volunteer opportunity for Punahou music students. “I originally presented the project idea to my 8th grade Choral students, but we realized that even more students might want to get involved,” Scanlan said. So the students of the Academy Music Club, under the leadership of student club president Erin Nishi ‘21, stepped forward to volunteer their talents too.

It turns out that several of the students’ own family members live at Kahala Nui, so this project became even more personal. Piper McDermott ‘24 made a video of a Frank Sinatra song for her grandmother, Sally. Evan Porter ‘24 shared a pop song for his great grandmother, Violet. The students performed a wide range of music which include musical theatre and pop songs, Japanese folk songs, jazz standards and classical repertoire.  “We’re so proud of the students for demonstrating empathy through public service.” Goddard said, “I know that the residents will really appreciate this special gift of music.”

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