Young Performers Honor Mary Kawena Pukui through Hula and Mele

On Friday evening, May 24, the Twigg-Smith Pavilion was filled with the sounds and spirit of Hawai‘i as the eighth grade Hawaiian music class took the stage to present “Pūkuʻi i Ke Aloha.”

The concert focused on the legacy of Mary Kawena Pukui, a wonderful coincidence given that the Academy Learning Commons was named in her honor ahead of the event. Through studying Pukui’s life, mele and the ʻŌlelo Noʻeau she collected, the students gained a deeper understanding of Hawaiian culture. Her work provides vital guidance, or ʻike kūpuna, grounded in Hawaiian heritage.

In addition to the 31 students from the Hawaiian music class, the concert also featured the talents of 40 eighth grade choir students and 18 seventh grade choir students. This performance was the culmination of the students’ hard work and dedication in their music classes.

The eighth grade Hawaiian music class, developed two years ago by Junior School music faculty member Lauren Chang ’01 Williams, teaches students not just music theory and Hawaiian music but also essential performance skills. Throughout the course, students learned to interpret and sing sheet music, dance hula and play the ʻukulele. The class has enabled many students, who previously did not see themselves as musicians or performers, to confidently present an entire Hōʻike, or concert.

“Many of our students, and even their families, would not have considered themselves performers before this year,” Williams shared. “I hope that this experience gives our students the courage to try things that they may never have believed they could accomplish.”

Seeing students find their place and passion in the class has been the greatest reward for Williams and Junior School music faculty member Mia-Amor Porreca, who assisted with teaching the class. The course continues to grow and attract students committed to perpetuating Hawaiian mele and culture.

Photos by Kathleen Connelly

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