Music Timeline

1842

Shortly after opening its doors, music lessons begin at Punahou, as matron Marcia Smith leads a group singing in the evening. In the decades that follow, instruments and voice are often taught by a single teacher.


1892

The Oahu College Glee Club travels to Maui for the School’s first recorded concert tour. 


1895

The School orchestra is organized by Henri Berger, the German-born conductor of the Royal Hawaiian Band. 

Photo of orchestra members, circa 1900, from the Punahou archives.

1896

All music classes, including vocal music in the Preparatory School, are listed for the first time in the course catalog, signaling a more formal approach to instruction. 


1908

Punahou relocates its music instruction from a small space in Bingham Hall to Old School Hall, which is renovated in 1914 to include six music studios. Music scholarships and course credit are introduced.  

Photo of Old School Hall, circa 1930, from the Punahou archives.

1914

The designation Punahou Music School first appears in the course catalog. By the following year, the faculty has grown to seven teachers offering piano, violin, organ and voice. Another teacher leads the chorus and both girls and boys glee clubs. 

Recently introduced children’s classes for ages 6 – 14 focus on fundamentals such as rhythm and ear training.

Photo of Jane Lathrop Winne, circa 1916, who taught music until 1943. She also wrote the first curriculum guide for music in the elementary grades. From the Punahou archives.

1919

Under the leadership of President Arthur Griffiths, the Punahou Music School is formally reorganized and given its own board of directors. Its mission is to serve the wider community in the study and performance of music.


1920s

Soloists, glee clubs and orchestral groups regularly participate in stage productions. One example is a 1921 performance of George Bernard Shaw’s “You Can Never Tell,” featuring both the Punahou Orchestra and Jazz Orchestra playing between acts. 

Music School Director Mary Pasmore Burrell, violinist with the internationally acclaimed Pasmore Trio, leads the groups. 

Girls Glee Club, circa 1926, from the Punahou archives.

1930 – 1936 

Concerts move to the new Dillingham Hall. Before this, performances were held mostly at Pauahi Hall and Charles R. Bishop Hall (predecessor of current Bishop Hall).


1936

The Juliette M. Atherton Trust and Atherton family donate two gifts totaling $65,000 for the construction of a state-of-the-art music facility.

From the Punahou archives: Montague Hall in 1941.

1937

Montague Hall opens, featuring soundproof studios and a recital auditorium; air conditioning is installed in 1939. Instruction is offered in piano and organ, string instruments, voice and speech arts, theory, and band instruments. Nearly half of the 375 music students come from other schools. 

Verne Waldo Thomson, Music School director from 1929 – 1943.

Photo of R. Alex Anderson from the 1912 Oahuan.

1941

R. Alex Anderson’s compositions “Punahou” and “Lovely Flower of the Evening” commemorate the School’s 100th anniversary. A 1912 graduate, he wrote Hawai‘i classics such as “Lovely Hula Hands” and “Mele Kalikimaka,” as well as music for the 125th and 150th celebrations. 


Dec. 8, 1941– Sept. 10, 1945

After the Pearl Harbor attack, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers occupies the Punahou campus, dispersing students and teachers. The Music School reopens in 1945 with three instructors and 59 students. President John Fox launches plans to boost the languishing band and orchestra programs.


May 9–10, 1947

Ninth-graders perform Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operetta “The Pirates of Penzance,” adding music to an era dominated by dramatic theatre. 

Photo from the Punahou archives.

1949

Faculty recitals are frequent community events, often featured in the newspapers. 

This 1949 photo from the Punahou archives shows Ruth Bacon (piano), Herman Scheurer, and Warren Von Bronkhurst, as well as an unidentified oboist at left.

1951

The band building opens, becoming the first dedicated music building since Montague Hall. Also called the Triangle Building for being constructed on a triangular plot of land on Alexander Field, the building was designed by Leo Piper, superintendent of Punahou’s buildings and grounds.


1952

Part of the resurgent band program, the 56-piece Punahou Symphonic Band gives their first concert at Dillingham Hall on Dec. 4. 

Prepping for the evening’s show are, front row, Sheila Gow ’55, Katie Bush ’55, and Asahi Takakuwa ’55; in back, Mike Holmer ’53 and Roland Hiu ’57. From the Punahou archives.

1957 

Music School Director Marian Kerr organizes an ambitious Festival of Music and Art of This Century. The event moves to University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa two years later, and runs until 1970.


1960s

May Day performances are revamped to resemble today’s Holokū Pageant, with authentic mele, oli and hula. The choral program moves to Montague Hall. 


1962

Peter Mesrobian is hired as the first full-time orchestra director. In addition to leading all orchestra classes for grades 5 – 12, he teaches introductory strings in grade 4 and beginning string classes in grades 5 – 12. 

Photo of Peter Mesrobian from the 1967 Oahuan.

1964

Punahou Chamber Music Program is established with an endowed fund from Dr. Raymond Vaught, a University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa musicology professor. The fund is dedicated in memory of his wife, Kathryn Kennard Vaught, a cello instructor and string quartet enthusiast.


1965

The Orchestra Building is constructed to house the orchestra program, which was previously located in the basement of Castle Hall. Now the Mau Band Building, it currently houses the Academy Band Program.

Photo from the Punahou archives.

1970s 

The decade kicks off a wave of international travel, from the Hui Le‘a Nani Singers trip to Mexico in 1976 to the Chorale’s tour of New Zealand in 1987.

The Wind Ensemble gathers at the Honolulu Airport before embarking on a 17-city European tour in 1972. 

1985

The Marching Band makes its first appearance at the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California, returning in 1999, 2007 and 2016.


1986

The orchestra program relocates to Montague Hall recital room from the old Orchestra Building, which is converted into the Academy Band Building to accommodate the huge growth in the grades 5 – 12 band program. The building is renamed Mau Band Building in 1994.


March 30, 1990

Punahou Symphony Orchestra with select wind musicians performs at Carnegie Hall. The group spearheads a growing program composed of two Academy orchestras and single orchestras for 6th, 7th and 8th grades. 

Photo of Punahou Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall from the Punahou archives.

1990

Suzuki violin instruction is introduced to the Music School by Hiroko Primrose. Developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki of Japan, the method lets children as young as three to learn violin.


1993

Renovation of Dillingham Hall is completed, providing an acoustically superb music venue. Academy winter and spring concerts featuring the Symphony Orchestra, Chorale, and Wind Ensemble return to Dillingham after years at Blaisdell Concert Hall.

Photo of the renovation process of Dillingham Hall from the Punahou archives.

2002

The digital piano lab is installed at Montague Hall, and updated in 2019.


2004

The guitar program is established in the Academy.


2009 

Punahou Marching Band plays at the inaugural parade for President Barack Obama ’79 in Washington, D.C.; the group is invited back in 2013 for Obama’s second inauguration. 

Punahou Marching Band at the inaugural parade for President Barack Obama ’79 in Washington, D.C.

2013 

Hawaiian Music Ensemble is added as the newest Academy music ensemble.


2016

To celebrate the school’s 175th anniversary, Allen Murabayashi ’90 produces Punahou Sessions, a set of live music videos. The recordings showcase the depth and diversity of musical talent, representing nine decades of alumni, current students and faculty.

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