In 2015, as Punahou prepared for its 175th anniversary, I pitched Kikilia Fordham ’82, now Punahou’s Director of Donor Engagement, on the idea of filming live musical performances on campus to celebrate the extraordinary depth and diversity of musical talent among alumni and students. With the help of director Evan Asato ’11 and his business partner, Andrew Tran, audio mixing by Darin Leong ’96, logo design by Jennifer Tanabe ’92, plus the support of dozens of others in the Punahou family, we committed ourselves to a five-year plan.
From the very moment that Pomaikaʻi Lyman ’99, Jeff Au Hoy ’98, Darin Leong ’95 and Keoni Souza strummed the first beat of the first recording – aptly entitled “Ka Lei o Punahou” – we knew that Punahou Sessions would be something special. The tears in my eyes upon hearing glorious music reverberating in the halls of the Omidyar Neighborhood might have been the giveaway.
We strove to be “representative, not definitive,” because we knew that the creative talent that flowed between the walls of campus exceeded our capacity to capture it all. Schedules didn’t always align, musical rights were sometimes difficult to obtain, and of course, COVID-19 changed the way we live our lives.
There is nothing remarkable about a music video. But there is something remarkable about a school that could nurture so much creative talent, and something remarkable about the generosity of those artists to so readily share their talent to bring joy to many. We’ve been fortunate to capture the performances of 100 students and alumni ranging from the Classes of 1946 – 2022.
A million thoughts flash through my mind as I contemplate the end of Punahou Sessions while the school simultaneously confronts some of the greatest challenges in its history. On one hand, the celebration of music seems wildly out of place. On the other hand, music can act as a salve, bringing comfort in the darkest of times. The irony is not lost on me.
So let me simply end with this: Few projects have brought me so much joy as this one, and it has been a complete honor to share the gift of music with you. Mahalo for listening.
Allen Murabayashi ’90 Executive Producer
While scrolling through my newsfeed two years ago, I came across a homegrown video of three alumni performing Jack Johnson’s “In the Morning.” The vocal harmonies combined with the light strumming of the ukulele and guitar were perfection. And the cherry on the pie was that I recognized one of the singers.
I first met Casey Matsumoto ’13 in the Summer of 2013. Back then, she was a newly minted Punahou alumna who was working as a TA for the Wo Center’s Student Global Leadership Institute. Shortly thereafter, she matriculated to Northeastern University in Boston, where she continued her interest in music by joining an a cappella singing group called, “Pitch, Please!” while pursuing a degree in communications. A few weeks ago, she graduated from The George Washington University Law School, and will soon start a clerkship with Hawai‘i Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael D. Wilson. Boom!
It took a couple of years for our schedules to align, but this past winter, we finally found a small window of time to bring the “band” back together. In truth, it was Kiko Whiteley ’13 and Andy Matson ’13 who formed a band called “Chiller Instinct” with a few other classmates in high school. Matsumoto admitted, “I was not in the band! I was not cool enough to be in the band.”
Matson attended Northeastern with Casey, which gave them ample opportunity to jam. And during the undergraduate holidays, the trio started their musical collaborations. Matson earned a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience, and has worked in a variety of research and clinical settings with the eventual goal of pursuing a medical degree.
Whiteley is currently studying computer and data sciences at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, with the intention of becoming a software engineer or data scientist in the future.
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