Punahou Sessions is a set of live music videos created and produced by Allen Murabayashi ’90 to celebrate the extraordinary depth and diversity of talent among alumni and students who create music. The first season was in honor of Punahou’s 175th anniversary and featured a representative collection of musicians spanning the classes of 1946 – 2020. Sessions combines musicians in a variety of musical genres, recorded live on the Punahou campus.
In April and May, 2017, the second season of Sessions launches with musicians representing classes of 1967 – 2022!
Mahalo for the generous contributions of time and talent to the musicians, to Allen Murabayashi ’90 for his inspiration, Darin Leong ’95 for mixing and mastering the multi-track audio and Evan Asato ’11 for directing and filming. Enjoy the Sessions, share them, create your own music. (See Murabayashi’s Producer Notes.)
- Ka Lei o Punahou
- Partita No. 3 for Solo Violin in E Major
- Alu Like
- Queen's Prayer
- Never Give All the Heart
- Honolulu City Lights
- In a Sentimental Mood
- I Never Told You
- Just Friends
- Make You Feel My Love
- Audition (The Fools Who Dream)
- He Mana‘o Ko‘u Ia ‘Oe (I Think of You)
- Lions by Sandra McPherson
- “Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto” S.434
- Days of Our Youth
- Kaulilua i Ke Anu Wai‘ale‘ale
- Everybody Wants to Rule the World
- Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007, Prelude
- Come Fly with Me
- Hey There from “The Pajama Game”
- If I Love Again
- I'll Be There
- Dvorak Slavonic Dance in C Minor, Op. 46 No. 7 Skocná
I found a video of Pomaika‘i Keawe ’99 Lyman singing on YouTube and knew I needed to include her. When she’s not carrying on the tradition of performing Hawaiian music like her legendary tutu, Aunty Genoa Keawe, she’s teaching keiki to play ukulele or getting them in shape with her company Hawaii Elite Athletic Training. There is a surreal clarity to her voice, and her ukulele playing is awesome. In my brain, I figured I’d just slap together a few other late 90s musicians together and form a super group. But who else to include …
It started with sunset drinks at the Halekulani with Kathy YL Chan ’04. I posted a photo of the evening’s musicians to Facebook and got a response from Katie Baker ’01 who proclaimed, “Eh! That’s Jeff Au Hoy ’98 on steel guitar.” Turns out Jeff’s sister, Cathy ’00, was one of Katie’s best friends, so it was an easy connection to make. Jeff is one of the State’s best steel men, having played with the likes of the Brothers Cazimero, Pueo Pata, Cyril Pahinui and more.
Darin Leong ’95 had already volunteered to help mix and master all the audio, so I figured I’d ask him for another favor. Darin’s sister, Tisha ’88, was friends with my sister, Janice ’88, back in the day, but I don’t remember hearing about her brother being such a great musician. But he is a phenomenal guitar player, and he has the Hoku nomination to prove it.
Pomai suggested “Ka Lei o Punahou” and she knew a bass player who was already familiar with the tune and harmonies. Keoni Souza performs with Na Hoa and is married to Mahina MacFarlane ’06. Hawaiian music sometimes gets a bad rap for being simplistic, but its form of falsetto singing is globally unique, and you’d be hard pressed to find a guy who can sing more beautifully (and higher!) than Keoni.
This was the very first session we taped, and as the musicians started practicing in the hallway at Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood, I had a suspicion that the project would be a success. Was it the tears forming in my eyes that told me so? No, those are allergies! Just kidding. It was the music, man!
“Ka Lei o Punahou” was composed by Mary Kawena Puku‘i and Irmgard Farden Aluli and is a mele inoa honoring Laura Pratt (1921) Bowers, a longtime volunteer and staff member at Punahou. Music rights granted by Universal Music Publishing Group.
The Kawakami family is no stranger to the music scene in Honolulu, having formed the well-known ManoaDNA group with father Lloyd ’71, and sons Nick ’01 and Alx ’04. Los Angeles-based Alx – singer, songwriter, producer – suggested “getting the band back together” for Punahou Sessions, but alas, everyone’s schedule couldn’t accommodate the recording date.
But no worries, Alx said he’d do it himself. And what song did he pick, just a little ditty he wrote for a special day in his life. You’ll have to listen to the whole thing to get the back story.
During the Winter break, I crashed a young alumni party and met brother Nick, who helps produce the very popular HI*Sessions series along with Shayna Ching ’93 Kusumoto. We started talking about music copyright clearance (we do it legally around here!) and he referred me to intellectual property lawyer, Bill Meyer, father of Ryan ’01 and Rayna ’04. Bill’s firm has helped us navigate the shadowy world of YouTube and Facebook.
Alx’s YouTube channel is filled with ukulele and guitar covers of popular songs from Bruno Mars to Justin Bieber. You might also notice that Alx plays a right-handed guitar left-handed and upside down. I’m not even sure what this means, but it sounds difficult. Not difficult: Listening to his original composition by the Lily Pond. That darn thing made me Smile.
“Smile” was written by Alx Kawakami who has granted rights for this production.
I first came across Laura Keller ’06 in the Punahou Bulletin when she performed with the Symphony in China. The New England Conservatory of Music and Yale School of Music graduate has been wowing audiences with her prodigious talent since she was a child. While chatting with President Jim Scott ’70, he said, “You should look her up, she’s in New York.”
While hosting a 4th of July BBQ a year later, Marcela Biven ’10 texted me to say that Mary Keller ’10 (Laura’s sister and a talented violinist in her own right) and Laura were going to swing by. And thus a bevy of music nerds were united. A few months later Laura joined me and a few other Yale grads on a Sunday afternoon to read through the Schubert String Quintet over a bottle (or 4) of champagne because that’s what orchestra nerds do.
The Keller family is a patron of the arts. Drs. Bruce and Cynthia have endowed the “Keller Quartet” through the Punahou Music School for many years, allowing talented students to receive free chamber music coaching that culminates in an annual performance at Dillingham Hall. As dentists, they’ve also trained their daughters to floss daily. I highly approve.
We hadn’t intended on filming in the Sullivan courtyard, but on the day of the taping, those Manoa rains kept starting and stopping. Kikilia Fordham ’82 suggested the courtyard, which ended up having that classical villa feel. A perfect setting for some violin magic that will take you Bach in time.
The Preludio is the first of six movements of the Partita No. 3 for Solo Violin in E Major by Johann Sebastian Bach. This Partita is the last of a set of six works known as Sonatas and Partitias for solo violin, which were completed by 1720.
Lea Friedman ’93 Almanza (vocals)
Scott Harada ’91 (ukulele)
Emma McGuire ’93 (hula)
Justin Murata ’92 (guitar)
Blair Sataraka ’92 (bass)
Kanani Taliaferro ’93 Kelekolio (hula)
When it comes to producing something like Punahou Sessions, organizing performers is one of the biggest time commitments. This was not the case with Lea Friedman ’93 Almanza. For those who know Lea, this should come as no surprise. For those who don’t, let’s just say she’s the boss.
I saw Lea’s mom, Jill Friedman, at the 175th Anniversary celebration in London last summer. She warmly greeted me and reminded me how I had come up to the house in high school to help Lea and Zay Harding ’93 rehearse for the Brown Bags to Stardom talent competition. If Jill says so, then I believe it!
Lea went off to Cornell University while continuing to hone her operatically-trained voice, and is still active in the theatre scene in Honolulu. In fact, she’s currently a lead in Diamond Head Theatre’s production of Camelot through April 17th! But when it came to selecting a song to sing for the Punahou Sessions, she quickly decided to take it back to her Holoku days. Did she need me to assemble a band? Track down musicians? No, no, don’t be silly. She made some phone calls, sent some Snapchats, transmitted some faxes, and a few weeks later, she produced a band composed of musicians she had played with at Holoku. But why stop there? Lea also tracked down hula dancers.
A lot of people can “cha-lang-a-lang” on the ukulele, but every so often, you’ll hear someone who can make the instrument sing. Such is the case with Scott Harada ’91. While he isn’t busy managing Dots Wahiawa, he’s been making music with Blair and Justin for nearly 30 years in their band KEIA.
If you’ve attended the Alumni Luau in the past, then you’ve probably enjoyed the fruits of labor of longtime imu gang member Blair Sataraka ’92. But setting up the imu isn’t a once a year affair. He’s just as likely to set up an imu in his backyard because hibachis are too small for da pig. Also, he likes Lea’s mom’s chili.
After initially pursuing a career as a teacher, Justin Murata ’92 switched gears to real estate management. But his work never deviated far from helping the keiki. His current position is real estate trust manager for the Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust, which serves over 10,000 orphan and destitute children annually.
When I was at Punahou, formal Hawaiiana education ended with Dave Eldredge in 8th grade. So you might be excited and surprised to hear that the Hawaiian language (‘ōlelo Hawai‘i) is taught (for language graduation credit) by people like Academy language teacher Emma McGuire ’93, who gently reminded us that Pōhakuloa has a kahakō over the “ō.” McGuire created a digital textbook for introductory Hawaiian last year.
No need to wait until the Academy though. Kanani Taliaferro ’93 Kelekolio co-facilitates the K – 3 after-school immersion program in Hawaiian with Ke‘alohi Reppun ’99. The keiki learn mele and oli and the program allows Academy students to volunteer while honing their own language skills.
“Pōhakuloa” was composed by Gary Haleamau with lyrics by Gary Haleamau and Keala Haleamau Lindsey. Rights granted by Gary Haleamau.
Danny Carvalho ’09 (slack key guitar)
Pal Eldredge ’64 (vocals, guitar)
Waileia MIneshima-Eldredge ’94 (vocals)
Jacques “Leokane” Pryor ’82 (vocals, ukulele)
Wil Tafolo Jr. ’06 (bass)
If you’ve attended Punahou from the mid-1950s onward, you’ve undoubtedly felt the presence of the Eldredge family. Dave Eldredge ’49 was the winningest football coach in the school’s history and was a staunch advocate of the Hawaiiana curriculum that has only grown stronger in the past decade. Hattie Eldredge ’66 Phillips, like brother Dave, directed and shaped the Holoku pageant. Today, Hattie’s daughters Lauli’a Phillips ’98 Ah Wong and Leilehua Phillips ’95 Utu act as co-directors of the schools HĀ program and the Holoku pageant.
But I was closest to Pal Eldredge ’64 because he was my 4th-grade switch teacher. Of the many things that “Mr. E” was known for, I best remember him giving nicknames to every student in his classes. I was “Jet Ski” for my insistence on being the first one to finish taking a test (I apparently missed the memo that getting good grades was the more desirable outcome). My 4th-grade “girlfriend” Stephanie Honda ’90 Somers was known as “Peaches” for reasons I cannot remember.
Today, Pal serves as co-music director of the Holoku pageant with his daughter Waileia Mineshima-Eldredge ’94. And it is his role as musician that inspired this particular group because all of the other musicians have at one point tipped their hats to Mr. E(s) for inspiring them to learn, play and love Hawaiian music.
Speaking of Waileia, back when I was in high school, she was “Denise’s” little sister. When she’s not teaching the Holoku musicians with her dad, she works as a Campaign Operations Manager at Punahou continuing the long line of Eldredges giving back to Punahou.
Campus kid, Jacques “Leokane” Pryor ’82, used to sneak into the gym to watch Holoku practice while hoping that Uncle Dave wouldn’t kick him out. Both Hawaiian music and hula influenced his development as an artist and in 2000, he released his first album to great acclaim. Leokane moved to Hana from California in 2004, where he still currently resides. He’s sometimes known to bust into song and dance at Holoholo Bar & Grill if you cheer loud enough.
The gentle giant and ever versatile Wil Tafolo ’06 sings, plays guitar, and bass in pretty much any style, which is why you’ll find him playing professionally around town with a diverse range of musicians from Danny to Mango Season, which features Curtis Kamiya ’95 and Chris Yeh ’88. When he gets tired of playing other people’s stuff, Tafolo writes his own music. I last spotted Wil performing at the Ku’u Punahou campaign launch in SF along with Pal, Waileia and Pat Quilter ’64.
I certainly held an assumption that all the musicians on Punahou Sessions could play. But every so often, jaws dropped on set, as was the case when Danny Carvalho ’09 shredded his slack key guitar solo. This Na Hoku Hanohano Award nominee has been a prominent artist on the slack key guitar scene since high school, and continues as an active musician both in Hawaii and the mainland. His commitment to Hawaiian culture has only deepened since receiving his B.A. in Hawaiian Studies from UH.
The choice of venue, the Winne Courtyard, wasn’t accidental. This was a place where so many 3rd-graders shared their Luau – perhaps the first strong taste of Hawaiian culture for many. Winne, as you might know, will give way to the new 2 – 5 Neighborhood in the next few years. So it’s a little bittersweet to get a chance to record in this special place, but also inspiring to know that a whole new set of keiki will experience another incredible space for decades to come.
It would be an understatement to say that Holoku affected the lives of so many of the musicians featured in Punahou Sessions. Even for an orchestra nerd like me, the chance to play in Holoku created a connection to the school that has been felt by thousands of students through multiple generations.
“Alu Like” was written by Haunani Apoliona and is performed with her permission.
Meilan Akaka ’04, Michelle Akina ’86, Kaela Akina-Magnussen ’15, Nick Amador ’18, David Bell ’86, Francesca Bell ’18, Andy Bunn ’86, Candice Hatakeyama ’17, Erica Ito ’17, Jon Magnussen ’86, Marc Miyamoto ’91, Mitchell Moriwaki ’87, Tom Nicholson ’86, Toby San Luis ’88, Chloe Saracco ’17, Helena Schaefer ’14, Janie Schaefer ’15, Semisi Uluave ’15, Evan Uyeno ’16
Gary Heidel’s arrangement of Queen’s Prayer has lingered with me for decades. It is an arrangement that has been continually performed by the Chorale, Holoku musicians and each graduating class since he first arranged it. It is simultaneously jazzy, dense, sparse and difficult. But mostly it’s beautiful. It breaks all the classical voice leading rules, but who cares. It sounds good, and it makes the people listen. Gary was the longtime Chorale director from the 70s and 80s, and brother of Chaplain John Heidel. Both brothers had a tremendous impact on the Punahou community.
This piece wasn’t originally a part of the Punahou Sessions roster. In fact, a week before the recording, I hadn’t reached out to anyone because I wasn’t sure we could pull together a group of people on short notice.
But I recalled seeing some posts on my newsfeed a few months before of some Chorale kids from the 80s visiting Gary. I Facebook friended Toby San Luis ’88 and told him about the idea. He sent back photos he had taken of Gary’s arrangement, then started putting me in touch with a number of his classmates. I simultaneously started reaching out to some current students to see if they were interested in joining the group. The 18 people in this recording are the result.
Meilan Akaka ’04 returned from her honeymoon on the day of the recording, but showed up anyway. What kind of person does this??? An incredibly giving person. Meilan spent nearly ten years working with special needs students before becoming Manager of Teacher Leadership Development for Teach for America.
Michelle Akina ’86 and Jon Magnussen ’86 were high school sweethearts who later married and had two children, Lia ’18 and Kaela ’15. Both Michelle and Kaela were Holoku queens. Jon is a composer and professor at the University of Hawai'i and recently composed a piece for the Punahou Symphony Orchestra entitled “Swell Lines” for the school’s 175th anniversary.
David Bell ’86 and Francesca Bell ’18 are the second father/daughter combo to perform on this recording. David was part of the legendary era of Chorale in the mid-80s and thinks it’s pretty cool to see Frannie performing at Punahou. Frannie thinks it’s pretty awesome to perform with her dad.
The versatile Nick Amador ’18 sings, plays the bass in the Symphony, and just represented Hawai’i at the 2016 Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, DC. placing third in the nation! Perhaps more impressively, Nick signed off from social media for a month in December to avoid encountering any spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I was fortunate to attend the same showing as Nick, and the wait was worth it! MAY the Force be with you in DC.
Candice Hatakeyama ’17 and Erica Ito ’17 co-wrote the book for a completely original musical entitled “Waiting for Change,” (Music by Nick Amador) that was staged in Dillingham’s DWS this winter. They dance (seen ‘em), they sing (heard ‘em) and they perform (witnessed ‘em) all over campus and the State.
I first heard the dulcet tones emanating from the incredibly low voice of Evan Uyeno ’16 at the Jazz Band concert in December. Then later that month, Chloe Saracco ’17 invited me to play a Christmas gig with her and Evan at the home of teacher Heather Taylor's ’92 parents in Kaneohe. While he’s not making subwoofers jealous, Evan plays the trombone in the Marching Band.
Maybe it was because their mom, Kikilia Fordham ’82, asked them, but I like to think that Helena ’14 and Janie Schaefer ’15 showed up because it was for a good cause. Helena’s YouTube recording of “Jungle” went viral with 35k views while she was studying at Sarah Lawrence College. Janie is attending Ithaca College and stayed at my NYC apartment over Spring Break. Quietest roommate ever!
Gentle giant is one way to describe the 6’5”, 330-pound offensive tackle named Semisi Uluave ’15. Heavily recruited for his football prowess, Semisi also found time to sing with the Holoku musicians, before matriculating to UC Berkeley this past year.
Andy Bunn ’86 is a lawyer by day and PAA President by night. I remember him as an orchestra nerd, but nowadays he spends more time playing the mandolin, like the time we performed “Ka Punahou” at a 175th party in Tokyo with solo mandolin. That was clearly a first.
Tom Nicholson ’86 doesn’t even live in Honolulu, but he is a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines and happened to be in town on the day of our taping. Like many singers from the era, Tom considers Gary Heidel to be his most influential teacher and fondly remembers singing Queen’s Prayer, hands held, after every Chorale performance.
Mitchell Moriwaki ’87 sings regularly with the St. Andrews Cathedral when he’s not working as a librarian for the State of Hawai’i.
I have rather vivid memories of class clown Toby San Luis ’88 since he was in my sister’s class, and one of the “cool kids.” If I’m not mistaken, his band wrote a song which they tried to get voted in as their prom song, but the Administration claimed that prom songs needed to be professionally published. He also led a movement to rename the school’s mascot from “Buff ‘n Blue” to the “Buffalolos,” which I honestly think it still a better name.
Mark Miyamoto ’91 and I sang in Chorale, and the summer after I graduated, the group took a trip to Nagoya to perform with our peeps like Kim Wong Yoshimoto, Jerusha Hagen Tabori, Mei Mei Fox, Willow Chang, et al, and beloved director Dee Romines, identical twin brother of band director Jay Romines.
Queen's Prayer was composed by Queen Lili'uokalani on March 22, 1895 while she was under house arrest at I'olani Palace. The hymn was dedicated to Victoria Ka'iulani, heir apparent to the throne. This version was arranged by former Punahou chorale director Gary Heidel, who passed away May 1, 2016.
Allen Murabayashi ’90 (piano)
Chloe Saracco ’17 (vocals)
Every two years, Punahou drama teacher Tony Young gives up his Spring Break to bring a gaggle of students to New York City to workshop, see shows and play tourist. Last year, Tony surprised me by showing up with my classmate, Academy English teacher Traci Young ’90 and an awfully talented group of kids. After devouring a ginormous plate of my home-baked chocolate chip cookies with, ahem, banana and Maldon sea salt (really guys, let’s watch the sugar intake), we got down to business – jamming to Broadway and pop songs until the teachers cried “Uncle.”
A few weeks later, one of those students, Chloe Saracco ’17 sent me a note saying “I think you know my aunt,” followed by “I think our parents know each other.” And indeed, her aunt, Mollie Saracco ’90 was one of my classmates, and our parents do know each other.
Thus friends of friends became friends, and later that summer, Chloe swung through New York on her way back from musical theatre camp and we jammed again. The jam led to the creation of a set list, which led to more jam sessions in Hawai’i, and here we are – available for birthdays, bar mitzvahs and holiday parties.
Chloe’s vocal tone and control are mind-blowing for someone her age. This is not hyperbole. She performs with the Jazz Band, the Holoku musicians and in numerous musical theatre productions – most recently in a student-written show entitled “My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece” with music and lyrics by Lana Reeves ’19.
The song she chose for this production is from the TV show “Smash” (which starred veteran Broadway actor Ann Harada ’81), and features lyrics that sounded to me like “Mr. Yates really paved the way.” Having never seen the show, I kept thinking of Brad Yates, my former health teacher and father of Reyn ’88. But Chloe quickly pointed out to me that the whole song was based on the William Butler Yeats poem of the same name – she’s talented and smart.
“Never Give All the Heart” was composed by Marc Shaiman with lyrics by Scott Whittman and Marc Shaiman. Music rights were granted by Windingbrook Way Music and Walliwoo Entertainment and Harry Fox Agency.
Aaron Komo ’09 (vocals)
Allen Murabayashi ’90 (piano)
Jason Tam ’01 (vocals)
Talk to any theatre kid from Hawai‘i and they’ll tell you they want to be Jason Tam ’01. It might be because they saw the YouTube of Jason trying out for the revival of “A Chorus Line” on Broadway. Google it. As he finishes his audition, the producers say, “Boy, you got me. For an audition, Jesus, that’s excellent.” After he leaves the room, they continue, “Oh, my God. I’m crying. I haven’t cried, in what, 30 years! Sign him up.”
Jason got the part, and many more. But Jason is more than just a Broadway star. He’s a soap opera star. He’s the son of Maui-born Jim Tam ’67. And his Facebook feed is a weirdly humorous stream of consciousness like this gem, “Finally some responsible journalism regarding Bay Leaves. If you're a Bay Leaf supporter please just go ahead and do us both a favor and unfriend me now.” Or this one, “Guys already know this, but ladies lemme tell you. We're living in the #GoldenAge of urinal cakes. There's been a huge leap forward in u. cake technology recently. Shout out to the humans who figured out how to make them smell so legitimately delicious! That cinnamon one, right fellas?!!” To add to the humor, Jason showed up for the recording, having learned a completely different song. Lyrics were printed. Music stands were procured. Hilarity ensued.
Aaron Komo ’09 might have been one of those kids who wanted to be Jason Tam. But the NYU grad and recent Minneapolis-transplant is doing fine on his own, working at the esteemed Gurthrie Theater. Still, he was pretty excited to sing with Jason, and even learned the right song. Don’t worry moms, Aaron’s facial grooming isn’t his normal style – but it was Movember when we recorded this.
This video was the “proof of concept” for Punahou Sessions. We recorded it in my apartment with the help of NYU student Troy Enoka ’15 simultaneously operating a mere two cameras (compared to 5 – 6 on most of the Hawai‘i-based sessions). I had no idea what I was doing, but when Jason and Aaron started singing, I knew we were gonna be ok.
This song is for all my homies living outside the Aloha State. I’ve been boarding that plane at HNL back to the east coast for 26 years, and each time, it’s not easy to leave again…
“Honolulu City Lights” was composed by Keola Beamer, who also wrote the lyrics. Music rights were granted by Niniko Music Inc., a Hawai‘i corporation.
Summer Derrickson ‘16 (vocal)
John Kolivas ‘79 (bass)
Shoji Ledward ‘74 (jazz guitar)
Betty Loo ‘46 Taylor (piano)
Christopher Yeh ‘88 (saxophone)
When I was in high school, jazz seemed like a foreign land. The kind of music that was played in smoky clubs in New York by predominantly black musicians. Therefore, I was understandably shocked to encounter Betty Loo ’46 Taylor – a hapa haole woman – swinging it in Waikiki with the likes of Jimmy Borges. Austin Sloat ’88, Kale Braden ’90, Tim Alexander ’90 and I would head down to Lewers Street to a now defunct jazz club to hear Betty Loo, and one day I mustered the courage to inquire about piano lessons. After an on-the-spot audition, she agreed. A few intense lessons later, I primarily learned how little I knew. Even though my professional life took me away from music, I never stopped wanting to play like her.
Betty Loo has accompanied hundreds of singers throughout the years, including a steadfast partnership with Joy Valderrama ’48 Abbott. You might have seen their special on PBS a few years ago. Speaking of a few years ago, 2016 happens to be Betty Loo’s 70th reunion. S-E-V-E-N-T-Y.
I thought it would be pretty epic to pair Betty Loo with someone about to graduate from Punahou. Enter Summer Derrickson ’16. Summer is a vocal chameleon. She sings with the Punahou Jazz Band, Holoku Musicians and at gigs around town singing a variety of pop and folk tunes. There is a maturity to her voice and interpretation that belies her years. When you ask people around campus who can sing, Summer’s name always comes up. On this day, she popped into the Chapel between a few wedding gigs.
But why stop with just piano and voice? John Kolivas ’79 is the premiere bass guy about town. Prior to taping this session, John had just rushed over from a Honolulu Symphony Orchestra rehearsal. Right after the session, he ran off to another gig. In his spare time, he teaches bass at Montague. He’s as comfortable playing Elgar as he is Ellington. He is a jazz composer and educator. He played on Broadway. He toured with Gregory Hines. And on top of all that, he’s in charge of the Honolulu Jazz Quartet.
Like John, Shoji Ledward ’74, spends some of his time teaching guitar to da keiki at Montague Hall when he’s not playing jazz around town. Shoji is known as the pre-eminent jazz guitar musician around town. His buttery-smooth jazz guitar sound is only enhanced by the Quilter Labs amp he uses – you know, the one designed by Pat Quilter ’64.
Chris Yeh ’88 attended Harvard, but we won’t hold that against him because he plays a mean sax. By day, he is a lawyer specializing in labor and employment law. By night, he is part of Mango Season, a local band featuring Curtis Kamiya ’95 and Wil Tafolo ’06. He, like me, is very passionate about the sax solo featured in Wham’s “Careless Whisper.” Alas, that song is not being performed today. Hey Chris, maybe for the 200th?
“In a Sentimental Mood” was composed by Duke Ellington. Music rights are granted by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.
Allen Murabayashi ’90 (keyboard)
Jayna Wescoatt ’20 (vocals)
Who do you get to perform in front of the oldest building on campus? How’s about the youngest performer, Jayna Wescoatt ’20. That isn’t a misprint. We’re talking the class of 2020, or in other words, Jayna will graduate 74 years after our oldest performer Betty Loo Taylor did in 1946.
In one of those increasingly frequent moments, I realized that Jayna and I had a Punahou connection because Jayna’s mother, Jamie Lui ’86 and her twin sister Jodi ’86 ran cross country and track right around the time I was starting my lifelong hatred of cardio. Those types of memories run deep.
On the day of the recording, there must have been a helicopter convention, because almost every take of Jayna’s sweet voice was interrupted by the rumble of whirring blades. But ever the consummate pro, Jayna kept going without any hesitation. Hope you had a good time and learned a few things, Jayna. Because I’m putting you in charge of the 200th Anniversary Punahou Sessions.
“I Never Told You” was composed by Colbie Caillat, Kara DioGuardi and Jason Reeves. Music rights are granted by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.
John Kolivas ’79
Shoji Ledward ’74
Betty Loo Taylor ’46
Hawai’i jazz legend “Lady Fingers” Betty Loo ‘46 Taylor recently suffered a stroke that has caused paralysis on her right side. According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, “Taylor is in good spirits, though she’s not likely to play the piano anytime soon.”
It’s hard to understate the importance of Betty Loo helping to legitimize the Hawai’i jazz scene. Her prodigious talent took her to New York City and back to Hawai’i where she’s accompanied some of the biggest names in jazz, including the late Jimmy Borges.
It was her suggestion to gather John Kolivas ’79 and Shoji Ledward ’74 to play the jazz classic “Just Friends” back in January. Both John and Shoji are major players in the local jazz scene – while they are not sharing their gift of music by teaching students at Montague Hall – and have played with Betty Loo in the past. We were lucky to gather them together once again.
So on the month of her 70th reunion, we toast to a speedy recovery, and hope to see Betty Loo back on the keys soon.
“Just Friends” was composed by John Klenner with lyrics by Sam M. Lewis. Music rights by permission from Sony/ATV Music.
Max Bergmanis ‘12 (piano)
Kalia Medeiros ‘12 (vocals)
Duane Padilla (violin)
The Medeiros family is well-known among the Punahou ohana. Mom Lauren Buck Medeiros has presided as Chaplain at Thurston Memorial Chapel for over twenty years. Son Chris ’09 attended Yale and sang a cappella in the Yale Alley Cats like a few alumni before him – Tim Ito ’98, Tyler Dos Santos ’06, D Dangaran ’12, and yours truly. And Kalia ’12 lit up the stage in Dillingham as a stalwart of musical theatre productions before matriculating to the University of Michigan, where she just graduated from the Musical Theatre program and is about to tear up NYC. Unlike nearly every other performer in Punahou Sessions, I had never heard Kalia sing, but her reputation preceded her.
Back in high school, Kalia used to perform with Max Bergmanis ’12. I had heard through the grapevine that Max was quite a pianist, and had watched a number of videos on his YouTube channel. His musicality was solidified for me when we were doing an audio check with my keyboard, and he said, “There’s something wrong. The keyboard is transposed or something.” Apparently, while transporting the keyboard, I hit a “transpose” button and that did not agree with Max’s perfect pitch. This recent USC graduate in Jazz Studies is making the transition to being a full-time musician, and hey, he’s teaching piano in LA! Sign up!
Kalia suggested “Make You Feel My Love” – an Adele tune written by Bob Dylan that they used to sing back in the day. I listened to the Adele track and my non-perfect pitch ears discerned a violin in the background. Enter violin faculty Duane Padilla.
Duane has known Max and Kalia since they were in elementary school, and he jumped at the opportunity to play with the adult versions. Duane is no slouch either, having received a Master’s degree from the Yale School of Music. But more than just a musician, Duane is an innovative educator, who leads a class called “Let’s Jam.” If your kids play strings, you need to check out Duane’s class. Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson on violin? Yes, please.
As if the music wasn’t good enough on its own, we picked an incredibly scenic location at sunset, and that’s when director Evan Asato ’11 pulled out a drone. Yes, a drone. Because ground-based shots are so 2015, and our robot overlords are coming for us soon. Make me feel the love, guys.
“Make You Feel My Love” was composed by Bob Dylan. Music rights granted by Special Rider Music/SESAC.
Allen Murabayashi ’90 (keyboard)
Riley Noland ’18 (voice)
During last year’s 175th Anniversary “Punahou Presents” showcase, I came across a young woman of indeterminate age singing “As Long as He Needs Me” from the musical “Oliver.” Her poise and vocal control led me to believe that this was a recent college graduate who had returned for the show, which featured many other talented alumni. I was a little shocked to find out that the person in quest was about to a be a junior at Punahou.
Riley Noland ’18 is one of the many talented students that have graced the stage at Dillingham Hall under Paul Palmore’s direction. This year, Palmore is restaging the Tony Award-winning “Les Miserables.” In 2003 – one of the first high school productions of the show – another Punahou Sessions musician, Meilan Akaka ’04 Manfre, starred as Eponine. Fourteen years later, Noland will be taking the reins.
For her tune, Riley chose a tune from the Oscar Award-winning movie “La La Land” about a girl with a dream to be a star. A premonition? Or just another amazing talent writing her own story. “Smiling through it, she said she would do it again.”
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” was composed by Justin Hurwitz, with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Music rights granted by Warner Brothers Music Corp.
Speedy Bailey ‘71 (steel guitar)
Ryan McCormack ’00 (voice, ukulele)
Wil Tafolo ’06 (bass)
Pohai Nu‘uhiwa ’05 Campell
Maxine Nu‘uhiwa P’05
Trisha Kajimura ’89
Trina Kajimura ’93 Oato
Raychel Oato ’21
Michelle (Nalei) Akina ’86
Kaela Akina-Magnussen ’15
Lilia (Lia) Akina-Magnussen ’19
Kehau Kealoha-Scullion ‘80
Kealoha Scullion ’18
Leilehua Phillips ‘95 Utu
Lauli‘a Phillips ’98 Ah Wong
For the 2016 Holokū, co-directors Leilehua Phillips ’95 Utu and Lauli‘a Phillips ’98 Ah Wong hatched an idea to bring back three alumni groups to perform. Utu and Ah Wong are, of course, the daughters of the late Hattie Eldredge ’66 Phillips who took over as Holokū director in 1997 when her brother Dave Eldredge ’49 retired. Uncle Pal Eldredge ’64 currently serves as the music director with his daughter Waileia Mineshima-Eldredge ’94.
At the first rehearsal, I heard an incredible voice emerge from the speakers. Singing in a beautiful ka leo ki‘eki‘e – Hawaiian-style falsetto – was Ryan McCormack ’00 who had flown over from the Island of Hawai’i where he teaches Hawaiian Studies and hula. I knew we had to get that guy for Punahou Sessions.
When I introduced myself, Ryan seemed really friendly – the kind of friendly that suggests you already know the person. He later revealed that we did know each other because he was my student in 1995 when I taught Summer School marine biology and he was a rising 8th-grader. I felt old and embarrassed, in part, because it’s happened to me before with Kanoe Lum ’01 Williams who also used to dance hula with Ryan.
Ryan suggested “He Mana‘o Ko‘u Ia ‘Oe,” which you might recognize as the music that accompanied the entrance of the Holokū princesses for many years. Ryan could perform solo, or we could get a band. Let’s get a band.
Speedy Bailey ’71 (husband of Pauline Lo ’71 Bailey and father of Lindsey Bailey ’08 and Britten Bailey ‘02 Westsmith), of course, is one of the premiere steel men in Hawai‘i so we had get that guy. And multi-instrumentalist, singer and faculty member Wil Tafolo ’06 was the obvious choice on bass.
Then we figured if we’re gonna have a band doing a Holokū tune, we should consider getting a dancer. But time was short. Where could we possibly find a hula dancer? Where, I ask you? Where?
I sent an email to Leilehua and Lauli‘a, and not only did they find a dancer, they came up with a whole concept to feature family members – a different set for each island – and have each family choreograph their own section.
On a late Sunday afternoon in January at the brand new Sidney and Minnie Kosasa Neighborhood, as the sun dipped slowly behind the trees, Ryan strummed his first chord. Just a few meters away, Kristin Ing ’90 Aune was holding Variety Show rehearsal and she told me they stopped as the sounds of beautiful Hawaiian music wafted into the Flanders Dance Pavilion.
The light off one of the windows reflected right onto Ryan and slowly moved up until his face was illuminated. Mothers, daughters, sisters – all alumni or faculty at Punahou – gracefully danced on the damp grass. And my eyes, well, let’s say they got a little damp too. Wish you could’ve been there, but this video will have to suffice.
Pohai Nu‘uhiwa ’05 Campbell is not only a law clerk for Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, but a former Holokū queen. None of this is surprising given that her mom is Kumu Maxine Nu’uhiwa who has been teaching at Punahou since 1989, and is currently part of the Ka Papa ‘Ekolu (3rd grade) team at the Kosasa Community.
Trisha Kajimura ’89 serves as the Executive Director of Mental Health America of Hawaii. Sister Trina ’93 Oato brought along our youngest performer, her daughter Raychel ’21. Like mother and aunt, Raychel is an active participant in Holoku.
Michelle Akina-Magnussen ’86 and Kaela Akina-Magnussen ’15 both sang in last year’s recording of Queen’s Prayer with husband/father/composer John ’86. The two also served as Holokū queens in their respective years – a rarity and incredible legacy. Sister Lilia ’19 was studying for a test last year, but joined us this year, and weʻre glad she did!
Two years ago at the alumni luau, I was walking around taking pictures when I came across a some student volunteers. To one bright-eyed freshman I said, “Go get your friends and letʻs take a group picture!” She quickly gather about 30 classmates, and after taking their photo, I asked her for her name. “Kealoha Scullion,” she replied. Kealoha ’18 is now a junior and a regular part of Holokū. Mom Kehau Kealoha ’80 Scullion is not only an alum, but department head of the social studies faculty.
You might notice that Ryan pronounced some Hawaiian words with “t” (e.g. “ta” instead of “ka”). He tells me that the two are largely interchangeable, and some of my own cursory research suggests that ancient Hawaiian used the Polynesian “t,” but in converting Hawaiian to written form, the early missionaries settled on “k.” Even today on Ni‘ihau, you’re more likely to hear “ta” than “ka.”
Speaking of which, you might be surprised to know that ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i is now offered in the after-school Language and Culture program for K – 3, in grade 3 and as a credit-bearing language from grades 7 – 12. The resurgence of interest in the Hawaiian language has even reach the East Coast where schools like Harvard University now offer an administered proficiency exam for fulfilling their language requirement.
Nick Amador ’18
As a freshman in 2015, Nick Amador ’18 and a gaggle of thespians visited my apartment in New York City during his spring break under the guidance of drama teacher, Tony Young, and English teacher, Traci Young ’90 (no relation). I didn’t think much at the time, but whenever I traveled back to Hawai’i, Nick would seemingly pop up everywhere I went: playing bass in the symphony, singing and acting in various drama productions (No, Punahou still doesn’t allow facial hair. But Nick did get an exemption while he played the title role of Jean Valjean in the school production of Les Miserables), showing up for a Star Wars premiere. Multi-talented student who loves Star Wars? A dime a dozen at Punahou, right? But one day, I came across Nick on Facebook while he was representing the State of Hawaiʻi in the Poetry Out Loud national competition. Nationals? Poetry?
Yes, poetry. Under the guidance of English teacher Lara Mui ‘88 Cowell, Nick not only represented the state, he came in 3rd in the nation. And apparently, it was no fluke because Nick is going back again this year after winning the state competition for the second year in a row.
So if youʻre in Washington, D.C., head down in person, otherwise catch the livestream starting on April 25, 2017 at the Poetry Out Loud website: http://www.poetryoutloud.org/
Nickʻs talent and triumphs are a good reminder about the diversity of artistic expression available at Punahou. Itʻs not just music, but poetry, dance, art and much more.
“Lions” composed by Sandra McPherson. Rights were granted by the author.
Jairus Rhoades '22
"Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto" S.434 by Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
One day while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw a post from Helen Chao Casano, the director of Punahou Music School. It was a link to NPRʻs From the Top, a show that features young classical musicians from around the country. On this particular episode, Hawaiʻi was the focus.
Although general interest in classical music has waned throughout the years, there are still a ton of kids who study classical music, particularly at Punahou. And of course, many kids take piano lessons, so when I read the description about some 12 year old, I didn’t think much of it. But Helen knows things, so I figured Iʻd give it a go.
Click. It was a humbling experience.
Jairus Rhoades ’22, who just turned 13, plays better than I do at 45. In fact, it’s arguable that he played better when he was 5 than I do now (I know because I saw him on YouTube). It’s a generational-level talent, and it is a sight (and sound) to behold.
His teacher, Joanna Fan, has taught generations of talented pianists including Evan Lin ‘13. But you might also know her as the mother to PAANW Co-chair Audrey Fan ’82 and David Fan ’85.
"Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto" S.434 was composed by Franz Liszt and is in the public domain.
Scott Imanaka ’07 (vocals/guitar)
Nicholas Kaleikini ’08 (saxophone)
River Kim ’07 (keyboard)
Paul Nelson ’05 (electric guitar)
Wil Tafolo ’06 (bass)
Dae Han (drums) – non-Punahou
Celebrating the 10th reunion of the Class of 2007
I came across Scott Imanaka ’07 on YouTube jamming with frequent collaborator Nick Kaleikini ’08. Nick showed Scott the backing track to “Mistakes” while they were hitting the links at the Hawaii Kai Par 3 Course, and the two collaborated on the lyrics. Scott told me, “I think the inspiration is having a good thing and not wanting to mess it up because of immaturity and other issues.” I’m good with that!
While Scott is not working his day job in insurance, he’s often playing with Nick in their group called “The Willards.” The ubiquitous Wil Tafolo ’06 joins them on bass when he’s not gigging around town or working as music faculty on campus.
Nick originally played clarinet in the Punahou band, but can now be found playing the tenor sax, soprano sax, and even keyboards around town and abroad. He played with his grandfather, the Ambassador of Aloha, Danny Kaleikini on their recently released “Mahaaalo” album.
Multi-instrumentalist River Kim ’07 can be found playing the organ at St. Clements while he’s not preparing for medical school. You might also know his mom, Junior School Principal Paris Priore-Kim ‘76 or younger brother St. John ’10. Scott blames River for his introduction into the world of bands when they debuted alongside Kyle Whitford ’07 in the 8th grade pops assembly.
Paul Nelson ’05 received his Master’s Degree in studio/jazz guitar from USC, which means he’s really good. In the words of Scott, “ If you ever get a chance to witness Paul Nelson '05 play guitar then it’s a no-brainer why we asked him to play with us too.”
Mistakes is an original song by Scott Imanaka ’07 and Nicholas Kaleikini ’08.
Henry Kapono Ka‘aihue ’67
Words and music by Kui Lee
We first tried to get Henry Kapono Ka‘aihue ’67 to perform for Punahou Sessions as a part of the 175th anniversary celebrations, but his commitments as a full-time musician prevented the stars from aligning. But perhaps it’s more fitting that after celebrating his 50th reunion, one of Hawai‘i’s most beloved musicians returned to campus to perform his senior class song: Kui Lee’s “Days of Our Youth.”
A top athlete, Kapono played football on the track infield, which led to a scholarship at University of Hawai‘i. Injuries derailed his early dreams of playing professionally, but ironically took him in the direction of music. In the 1970s, Cecilio & Kapono took the islands by storm, and landed a recording contract with Columbia Records – the first local group to achieve such a record deal. Kapono pursued a solo career in 1981, and has continued to play to crowds in Hawai‘i and abroad. Last year, Kapono teamed up with musicians like Alx Kawakami ’04 for a C&K retrospective tour. Most recently, he’s been traveling around the West Coast at a series of Punahou Alumni Association events playing his beloved music.
“Days of Our Youth” was composed by Kui Lee. Music rights are granted by Mahealani Lee.
Dancers: Sierra Kiefer ’21, Kristen Koike ’18, Raychel Oato ’21, Raiatea Reynolds ’20, Nani Tomich ’20, Jessica Wilson ’18
Chanters: Lauli‘a Phillips ’98 Ah Wong, Trisha Kajimura ’89, Lia Sheehan ’88
Composed for Kaumealani, a chiefess of Waialua, by her mother Kapela, during the time of Kamehameha I
Hawaiian culture has witnessed a significant resurgence over the past few decades. At Punahou, 'Ōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) is now offered as an immersion program for keiki, and also for language requirement fulfillment credit in the Academy. Hawaiiana is imbued into programs like outdoor education, and students are arguably more culturally aware than ever before.
One of the most enduring traditions is the May Day and Holokū celebrations, which actually began at the school in the early 1900s. In those days, May Day was modeled on the English Maypole Dance. But in the 1940s and 1950s, May Day at Punahou started to incorporate some of the elements of the contemporary celebration like island princesses and kahili bearers. When Dave Eldredge ’49 took over the program in 1965, he steered it to reflect more cultural and historical awareness and developed the template for the school’s modern Holokū celebration.
It was as a junior in the late 1980s when I joined the Holoku 'ohana as a member of the live band since I lacked the coordination critical for any form of dance, let alone hula. I knew Uncle Dave from 8th grade Hawaiiana class, but it was a completely different level of engagement with the producer, narrator and visionary of the modern Holokū. And the experience of being a part of what was, at the time, one of the few Hawaiiana programs on campus was exhilarating.
Upon his retirement, Dave passed the reins to his sister, Aunty Hattie Eldredge ’66 Phillips who carried on the tradition until her death in 2010. Today, the legacy has been carried on by Phillips’ daughters, Lauli‘a Phillips ’98 Ah Wong and Leilehua Phillips ’95 Utu.
We have featured Hawaiian music and Hula ’auana (modern hula) with Punahou Sessions in the past, but I knew I wanted to incorporate Hula kahiko. But getting a halau together for a Sunday afternoon takes a little more planning and coordination. Fortunately, Lia Sheehan ’88 has both the planning and hula skills that made this particular session possible with one of the school kahiko groups, Ka Wai o Punahou.
Not only did the students learn the dance, but they participated in making the lei they wore for the taping, and showed up 3 hours in advance to prepare their costume and makeup!
You might not recognize the location. But the backyard off the Alumni House on Rocky Hill provided a picture perfect, secluded spot for this foundational chant that uses both the pahu (drum) and pūniu (coconut shell knee drum).
Jennifer Cleve ’87 Sojot (vocals)
Curtis Kamiya ’95 (guitar)
Mark Lindberg (drums)
Allen Murabayashi ’90 (keyboard)
Wil Tafolo ’06 (bass)
I first encountered Jenny Cleve ’87 Sojot during a production of "Fiddler on the Roof" at Dillingham Hall. I was a dorky freshman on the technical theater crew, and Jenny was one of the cool actors with a sweet Chorale voice. The differences between the grades seemed infinitely large in high school, but it seemed that everyone in the theater was welcoming. Jenny was no exception.
While she’s not working as a sales manager for "HILuxury Magazine," Jenny can still be found performing around town with her band “Jeff Said No.” Since she graduated in the 80s, I figured she wouldn’t mind performing one of the songs from her youth.
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was composed by Chris Hughes, Roland Orzabal and Ian Stanley. Music rights are granted by BMG.
Bruce Uchimura ’77
I came across a YouTube video of Bruce Uchimura ’77 doing what he does best – teaching cello students at Western Michigan University where he is a Professor of Music. The Juilliard School and Cleveland Institute of Music graduate is also in charge of the University Symphony Orchestra and actively coaches a number of chamber groups on campus as well while he’s not performing with the celebrated Merling Trio.
Even though he lives 4,000 miles away, he still finds a way to give back to Punahou when he returns to the islands. Working in conjunction with Helen Chao-Casano, Punahou’s Music School Director, Bruce has led master classes with Punahou students, sharing his extensive experience as a teacher and performer with the next generation of classical artists.
When it comes to the cello, there is no more an iconic repertoire than Bach’s "Unaccompanied Cello Suite." And while there will always be debate about which of the six suites is “the best,” there’s no denying the appeal of Suite No. 1’s prelude. The President’s Pavilion seemed like a regal enough place for a grand entrance.
John Kolivas ’79
Dana Rudin ’77 Land (vocals)
Mark Lindberg (drums)
Allen Murabayashi ’90
This poor group had the misfortune of being the first to record one sunny Sunday afternoon. While setting up, I quickly realized that I was missing a crucial cable that connected all the mics to my computer, so Director of Alumni Relations Doug Rigg ’84 drove to Kahala Mall to procure a new one. Then as we were discussing how we were going to play the song, it became clear that I told Alec Briguglio to learn the wrong tune. The tune is “Come Fly with Me,” not “Fly Me to the Moon.” Fortunately, I was working with pros.
Dana Rudin ’77 Land is no stranger to the world of music, performing in a variety of venues about town since she moved back home from the Bay Area.
John Kolivas ’79, one of the best and most versatile bassists in Hawai'i, is as comfortable playing jazz at the Blue Note as he is playing with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. On top of that, John is also an active realtor in Honolulu.
You might have seen them performing at Carnival or other functions around school. The Punahou Jazz Band is an extracurricular activity with an extraordinary set of musicians led by Alec Briguglio, the indefatigable Berklee School of Music graduate and multi-instrumentalist.
Percussionist Mark Lindberg didn’t graduate from Punahou (he grew up in the Pacific Northwest), but he’s frequently found playing around town with a bunch of alumni like Curtis Kamiya ’95, Wil Tafolo ’06, Nick Kaleikini ’08, and Chris Yeh ’88 in their group "Mango Season."
"Come Fly With Me" was composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Sammy Cahn. Music rights were granted by Maraville and Imagem.
Ryan Nakagawa ’18
I met Ryan Nakagawa ’18 at Panda Express. Let me explain. When we launched Punahou Sessions in 2016, I was eating some beef broccoli at Panda Express on South King Street when Ryan and his mother Cyndi introduced themselves two years ago. They had seen some of the first Punahou Sessions videos and Cyndi mentioned that Ryan played ukulele. Now listen. Everybody plays ukulele in Hawaii, so why should I believe that Ryan was special. But I checked out some of his videos on YouTube, and it turns out he’s quite a musician. What’s more, he’s also a great student, plays in the jazz band, and is a top flight cross country runner.
Hallelujah for great music and Panda Express!
“Hallelujah” was composed by Leonard Cohen, who also wrote the lyrics. Music rights were granted by Leonard Cohen Stranger Music Incorporated.
Joy Valderrama ’48 Abbott
Although her name is now synonymous with her late husband and Broadway legend, George Abbott, you might be surprised to find out that Joy Valderrama ’48 Abbott held the title of Hawaiian Junior Champion in both singles and doubles when she graduated at 16 years of age from Punahou. Her athletic prowess came from Abbott’s father, a former tennis coach, who immigrated from the Philippines and opened a barbershop at Schofield Barracks. Her mother’s love of the arts led her to her first dance lessons on base, and her talent manifested itself early in her life leading to her nickname as the “Shirley Temple of Hawaii.”
Valderrama went on to captain the Temple University tennis team and was eventually inducted into their Sports Hall of Fame for her undefeated record in singles for all four years. But her decision to financially help her parents to put her siblings through school led to a job as a nightclub performer singing and dancing to Hawaiian and popular songs of the day.
But marquee roles for Asians on Broadway were non-existent while she was performing, so with the encouragement of her then boyfriend, George, Abbott opened a number of boutique fashion stores in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, NJ called Moana’s and produced numerous musical fashion shows to combine her business and passion.
After her marriage to George in the mid-1980s, Abbott closed up her shops to move to Florida, but her passion for song and dance kept her active in the performing arts scene. In 2008, she won the Na Hoku Hanahano award for Best Jazz Album with the late, great Betty Loo Taylor ’46 – a friendship started in high school and renewed over the years when Betty Loo would ask Joy to join her onstage at the Kahala Hotel, where Taylor had a regular gig.
Even today, Abbott continues to perform, most recently delighting her classmates in 2017 with a two night engagement at Medici’s in Manoa Marketplace. A full house and a standing ovation seemed just about right for this gracious living legend.
“Hey There” was composed by Jerry Ross. Lyrics written by Richard Adler. Music rights were granted by J & J Ross Music Co. and Lakshmi Puja Music Ltd.
Danny Carvalho ’09
In the course of recording the various live performances that make up Punahou Sessions, there have been a number of jaw-dropping moments where my eyes and ears couldn't believe what I was witnessing. In Season 1, Danny Carvalho '09 joined a group led by Pal Eldredge '64, and created one of those moments when he took a masterful slack key guitar solo. We knew we had to feature him again. Danny is no stranger to the Hawaiian music scene. The Grammy and Na Hoku Hanohano Awards nominee started his formal slack key training with Ozzie Kotani at age 10, and has emerged as one of the top young stars of a new slack key guitar generation. In his high school days, Danny was well-known for his musicianship with his participation in Holoku and other activities, and caught the attention of the late Ka'aumoana McKenney ’83, a teacher to whom this piece was dedicated. Nowadays, Danny can be found performing around town and the country with Kailua Moon, a duo with his fiancée, Nani Edgar.
Willy Falk ’76
In 1976, there wasn’t much of a template for a kid from Hawai‘i to pursue the Broadway stage at a moment when productions were undergoing a generational shift in style and substance. Willy Falk ’76 studied voice in Hawai‘i with the legendary Neva Rego, and was active in the scene both at Punahou and in community theater. He matriculated to Harvard University, and graduated with a degree in American Literature while honing his chops in various student productions.
You might have seen him in the national tour of A Chorus Line playing Paul or maybe you caught a glimpse of his talent on Star Search – the Ed McMahon-hosted talent program that pre-dated American Idol by a few decades. Although he has numerous credits to his name, he’s arguably most famous for originating the role of Chris in the original Broadway production of Miss Saigon opposite the Lea Salonga.
Punahou had a handful of alumni on Broadway prior to Willy (e.g. Ed Kenney, Jr. ’51), but in the “modern era” of the rock musical/post-American Songbook, Willy sat at the forefront of a wave of talent that includes Leilani Jones ’75 (Little Shop of Horrors), Ann Harada ’81 (Avenue Q), Yasmeen Sulieman ’00 (Beautiful – The Carole King Musical), Jason Tam ’01 (A Chorus Line), and a slew of other talented performers of national tours and stage productions. He continues to perform today around the country while he’s not helping to mentor the next generation of Punahou students and alumni hoping to reach those bright neon lights.
Music by Ben Oakland, lyrics by Jack Murray. Published by Warner Bros. Inc. Rights for If I Love Again granted by We Are The Hits.
Darin Au ’90
Sienna Aczon ’13
Nick La‘a ’19
Hunter Karas ’19
Brandon Laygo ’19
If you ask students from the past decade or so about Darin Au ’90, they’ll tell you that he’s the long-haired guitar guy with an unorthodox (aka fun) teaching style. But back in the 1980s, when I knew Darin, he was a clarinet-wielding band geek, which put him in my junior high friend group of orchestra and band nerds. I have the photos to prove it.
But Darin made the switch to guitar as his primary instrument, and earned a B.A. in Music from the University of the Redlands, and then went on to get a Master’s in composition from the highly regarded University of North Texas – a well-spring of musical talent. In 1999, Darin returned to Punahou to teach, and worked as the Academy Music Department head for a decade.
When I approached Darin to participate in Punahou Sessions, he unsurprisingly wrote an original composition, and also engaged some of his current and former students. Darin told me, “It’s so cliché for me to say this, but working with students is the best part of every day for me.”
Besides possessing a lovely voice, Sienna Aczon ’13 has the gift of everlasting youth. That is to say, she looks the same now as she did when I first met her in NYC while she was attending Sarah Lawrence College. And in truth, I saw her performing a few songs with Darin a few years ago at a class memorial for the late Mu Tagoai ’90, and thought she was a high school student. It took me a few days to realize that it was actually Sienna! She’s currently acting in independent films.
During this year’s Holokū pageant, I heard some heavenly ka leo ki'eki'e (Hawaiian falsetto) backed with guitar emanating from the speakers. It took me a full minute to realize that it wasn’t a recording, but a live performance by multi-instrumentalist Nick La‘a ’19. He casually moved between guitar, piano, ukulele and voice like it was no thang. But Nick isn’t just in the band, he’s also taken starring roles on the stage as well as a frequent actor in various productions in Dillingham Hall. For graduation, he also co-wrote one of the class songs with Eliana Reeves ’19, and is planning on attending Berklee College of Music next year. And yes, he’s playing the bass – because Darin asked him to.
In addition to playing a mean slack key guitar, Hunter Karas ’19, has also built the guitar he’s playing with his father. The math wizard will be attending Brown University in the Fall.
Brandon Laygo ’19 is known around campus for always having an instrument in his hand. According to Darin, “If it’s got strings, Brandon will play it.” He proudly stands 5’2” and will be attending Seattle University in the Fall.
Although Darin wrote the tune, he left it up to the students to figure out their own parts.
Helen Chao-Casano P’22, P’24
Steven Casano P’22, P’24
When we initially conceived on Punahou Sessions in late 2015, we sought to feature the incredible range of artistic talent among students and alumni. We’re deviating from the plan, folks.
This performance deviates for two reasons: 1) the Punahou Music School is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and 2) every performer has acknowledged the role that their teachers have played in forming their artistic identities. It seems fitting, then, that we let the teachers in on the action.
I approached Helen Chao-Casano P’22, P’24, the Director of Punahou Music School for the past thirteen years, who quickly assembled not one, but FOUR of the finest pianists/piano teachers for an 8-hand arrangement of a composition written by Antonín Dvořák. She was quick to point out that Dvořák was born in 1841, a date that just happens to correspond to the founding of our very school. Helen has been teaching the keiki piano at Punahou for 21 years.
Because 88 keys aren’t enough, Steven Casano P’22, P’24 has also mastered the shakuhachi — a Japanese wind instrument similar to a flute or recorder — conducting significant research on the modern history of the instrument to go along with his degrees in Piano and Music Education, Ethnomusicology and Music Librarianship. Steven moved to Hawaii from Chicago with Helen to pursue his degree in ethnomusicology, and thankfully ended up staying.
Deven Kono started his piano studies with Ernest Chang on Wilder Street like yours truly. He's been an active collaborative pianist and has been a member of the piano faculty at Punahou Music School for eight years. Deven received a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance at the University of Hawaii, where he studied with Ronald Morgan.
In addition to her teaching duties, you’re just as likely to find Beryl Yanagi-Fujita accompanying different instrumentalists for recitals, audition tapes, and the like. As a student at UH, her teachers included the late Punahou organist Beebe Freitas. Beryl has taught private/group piano lessons at the Music School for 37 years, collaborated with the Punahou Choir/Band/Orchestra, Punahou Dance School, Suzuki Talent Education of Hawaii, Diamond Head and Kennedy Theatres, numerous students/colleagues and in her free time, gives back to the community by sharing music with our kūpuna and their caregivers.
In case you were wondering, although printed scores are still commonplace, many performers have embraced the use of technology for the simple reason that it’s hard to turn pages when you’re using both your hands. A number of different systems allow musicians to use a foot pedal to turn pages, which also renders the professional page turner obsolete.
About Punahou Sessions
You probably can name a musician or two from your class. Maybe a few more from your era. You’re probably unaware, as I was, how deep the talent pool has been through the School’s history: composers, conductors, instrumentalists, international pop stars, Broadway stars, renowned musicians from classical to jazz to electronic. For the school’s 175th anniversary, I wanted to find a way to share this legacy and, perhaps, inspire students who will add to this lineage.
With the help of Kikilia Fordham ’82, I started tossing together a list of names. We ended up with a collection of musicians spanning the classes of 1946 to 2020 – an incredible eight decades of talent that is meant to be representative rather than definitive. (We’d need a few hundred videos for that.) We combined musicians who had never played with one another. We chose a variety of musical genres. We asked the musicians all to play live. No autotune, no splicing, no lip synching.
We chose iconic locations on campus and enlisted the help of Evan Asato ’11 to direct and film it all. Darin Leong ’95 volunteered to mix and master all the multi-track audio because he’s just a great guy (in addition to being a Na Hoku and Grammy nominee and a lawyer). All the musicians – many of whom are working professionals – donated their time and talent.
Maybe another Punahou student will watch and become inspired. Sit down and practice, kid. Punahou’s 200th anniversary is coming up soon enough.
The result is a set of live music videos that we’re calling Punahou Sessions. Like, comment and share on social media. Donate to the arts at Punahou. Film your own video. In an utterly crazy world, we hope this music comforts, inspires and reconnects you with Punahou. Mahalo for listening.