Music Ensembles Learn About Hawaiian Culture

Kiara Royer, Staff Writer

A day after graduation, N-12 Music Program Coordinator Timothy Ho took 24 chaperones along with Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Steel Drums, Glee Club, Treble Choir and Concert Glee Club to Hawaii for a week of music, performance, and culture.

“We did a music trip to Hawaii about six years ago and that trip was really successful, so there was a lot of discussion from parents and the administrators about hoping to do it again,” Ho said.

Ho needed the right group of students, and last year’s seniors seemed like a good group to take as leaders, he said.

“I didn’t really know what to expect since it was my first high school music trip, but it was a good experience and I would definitely go again,” Vivien Sweet (10) said.

Mr. Ho worked with a tour agency to set up the schedule that split the whole group into two with separate daily itineraries: choir as one group, and all the instrumentalists as another, Middle and Upper Division Music Teacher Dr. Amir Khosrowpour, who was one of the chaperones, said.

Even though the itineraries were different, performances were sometimes shared, Khosrowpour said.

All the music groups performed at a senior center, Orchestra and Glee performed at a church, and each of the bands performed at different malls, Chris Ha (11) said.

The ensembles also had the opportunity to visit the Kamehameha School, Ho’s alma mater, where he taught for eight years.

“I hadn’t really connected with the school in any meaningful way since I left, so it was wonderful that I got such an amazing warm reception, and the students were received really well too,” Ho said.

Ho returned to the classroom that he sang in when he was a student and later taught in, he said. The experience of going back to his alma mater was powerful and cathartic, Ho said.

The students understood what going back meant to me, and the choir did an amazing job performing, he said.

Grace Sander’s ’18 favorite song to sing was “Ku’u Pua I Paoakalani” because Concert Glee performed it at the Iolani Palace, where the song was written.

“Mr. Ho has taken the effort to perfect this song and bring it justice. I think everyone knew that to finally perform it in the place it was composed in was such a rare opportunity, and that moment resonated with all of us at the end,” Sander said.

The entire trip was great for Sander because she was able to spend her last moments as a school student in Hawaii with so many of her senior and choir friends, she said. “Every senior had a bittersweet moment the last night and a lot of us stayed up all night to sing songs and to simply enjoy each other’s company.”

Besides performing, Sweet’s favorite part of the trip was a hike up the Diamond Head volcanic crater in Honolulu.

“Although I had done it before, the view was still breathtaking and it was very fun hiking with my friends,” she said.

William Golub’s (12) favorite activity was a hula workshop. Hula is a dance, but it’s really about the storytelling; we told a story about nature through rocks held in our hands and with our hand movements, Golub said.

Khosrowpour’s favorite cultural experience was visiting the He’eia Fishponds and Cultural Site, he said. “We learned about this 800-year-old fishing site, and volunteered to perform various tasks like carrying large stones to fortify a rock wall and clearing invasive tree roots,” he said.

“The importance of the pond is the tradition where if you take care of nature and the land, it can continue to be generous and give back,” Ha said.“[All of the ensembles] got to help maintain the pond, and it was nice to help out and learn about this aspect of Hawaiian culture,” he said.

For Gibby Thomas (12), learning olis, traditional Hawaiian chants, was her favorite cultural activity, she said. Upperclassmen from all ensembles learned the oli as a way to introduce themselves to the native Hawaiians they met, Thomas said.

Saying the chants respectfully was necessary in order to be granted access wherever we wanted to go, Thomas said.

“The chants were especially important because we were not only representing Horace Mann, but we were representing Mr. Ho, and I think it was awesome to see everyone being so mindful of that and taking the chanting seriously,” Thomas said.

“Spending time with the students and being able to show Hawaii through my eyes and having the students respond to that was just really profound for me,” Ho said.