Once a member of the Punahou Symphony, always a member of the Punahou Symphony! Director of Orchestras Craig Young assembled a virtual orchestra made up of 33 current Academy students and 12 alumni who graduated between 1993 – 2019. They joined together to share their talents and perform a sentimental favorite, “Akaka Falls.” This timeless classic of old Hawai‘i was composed by Helen Lindsey Parker and was arranged by Gavin Min especially for the Punahou Symphony. It is near and dear to the students’ hearts as they have performed it on their trips, to China and Japan in 2016 and 2018, and it became the orchestra’s heartfelt musical anthem of aloha.
Although separated by many years and multiple time zones, being part of this ensemble project presented an opportunity for generations of orchestra students to play together. The alumni included recent graduates as well as several professional musicians, including two bassists – 2017 Grammy winner Shawn Conley ‘01 and 2019 Grammy nominee Kathryn Schulmeister ‘07.
Schulmeister still has fond memories of early morning Symphony rehearsals, “When I think back to my time at Punahou, I realize how beautiful it was to start every day of the week with a Punahou Symphony rehearsal,” she said. “We always played great repertoire, and I had the chance to get in touch with my most essential passion, the one I have for expressing myself through music. It’s not a surprise that I’ve continued to pursue a life in music, or that I still have close friendships with my classmates who were also part of the Punahou Symphony.”
A recent alum, cellist Eugene Son ‘19, said: “Although the current and former members of Punahou Symphony may come from different parts of the world and have different life experiences, playing in this virtual orchestra eliminated all those differences. Once we picked up our instruments and played the first note, our language and communication was universal and timeless. We came together with one goal in common: to perform together and create something meaningful and beautiful for our community. This experience changed how I viewed being part of the Punahou Symphony – it is much more than just a class from my high school years; it is being part of a musical family for life.”
Over the years, Young has stayed in touch with his former students and said he’s enjoyed seeing where life has led them. “It’s really special to know that a love of music is something they can continue to share together,” he said. “In my heart, they will always be part of our Punahou Orchestra ‘ohana!”
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