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Virtual Nā Mele 2021: Premiere Broadcast
Inviting worldwide audiences to a celebration of music and aloha, Hawaii Youth Symphony (HYS) will present its annual gala, He Makana O Nā Mele: The Gift of Music, as a one-hour televised and streamed special premiering December 7, 2021.
From the grounds of the Halekulani, talented HYS students, ages 8-18 from across the state, are featured performers. Together with ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro and Hawaii’s top-selling female vocalist of all time, Amy Hānaiali‘I, they will join Junior Orchestras from Hawaii’s sister cities in Japan, the Ukulele Junior Orchestra from Kanazawa, and the Pacific Music Instituteʻs Ukulele Workshop, made possible through the magic of television and collaboration with Hawaii Tourism Japan. Beyond a festive evening, Nā Mele will benefit all HYS programs and financial aid funds, advancing the nonprofit’s vision to Make Music a Right for all young people in Hawaii.
In 2020, in partnership with Hawaii News Now, HYS hosted a televised Nā Mele gala for the first time. Initially developed as a creative response to challenges of performing in the pandemic and as a celebration of the universal language of music, it also offered a means for the annual event to reach global audiences. This year’s event, under the direction of Maestro Joseph Stepec, HYS Director of Orchestral Activities, Dean Taba, Director of HYS Jazz, and Chad Uyehara, Director of the HYS Academy String Program, will keep the music playing in a joyful new extravaganza. Honoring the special connection between Hawaii and Japan, junior orchestras from Ehime, Hokkaido, and Okinawa will also perform a special composition commemorating Hawaii’s Queen Liliuokalani from HYS alumnus and acclaimed composer Michael-Thomas Foumai.
“Music connects us all, and if the last two years have taught us anything, it is that even when we need to physically distance, we are still stronger together and wonderfully buoyed by our shared experiences,” said President of Hawaii Youth Symphony, Randy Wong. “Playing music, at any level, fosters confidence, resilience, and self-development in young people—so vital to success and joy in life. Together with the support of audiences watching this exhilarating Nā Mele, we can help ensure that the power and beauty of music education is available to every child in Hawaii. The young people featured in these performances are all exceptional musicians and it’s incredible what they can do together.”
Hawaii’s’ only state-wide music education organization, HYS serves students ages 7-18 of all skill levels and every economic background, brought together from more than 100 schools across the islands. Since 1964, the nonprofit has advanced its mission of developing youth to their fullest potential through orchestral music, offering diverse programs including general music, string and band classes, jazz, symphony orchestras, summer intensives, and more. Contributions from the celebration will go toward breaking down barriers to music education including financial hardship, access to qualified music teachers, the high cost of instruments, and expanding the reach of HYS in rural and under-resourced communities.
The premiere of He Makana O Nā Mele: The Gift of Music will air at 7:00 pm on December 7 and December 9 on Hawaii News Now—K5. The gala will also be available to stream via hawaiinewsnow.com and presented in Japanese via the HI Now Japan streaming player at hawaiinewsnow.com/hinow/japan. In addition to the performances, interview segments with community supporters, students, alumni, faculty, and board members—including HYS Board Member Jake Shimabukuro—will illuminate the importance of music education and how HYS is where musical journeys begin for so many young people. Audiences are invited to follow #MakeMusicARight and #whereitstartedforme(including the music note emoji) on HYS social media, and donate at a personally-comfortable level via namele2021.givesmart.com.