UH West Oʻahu music program engages beyond campus

Collage of University Chorus, musical jam session, and University Band

The UH West Oʻahu music programʻs offerings include the Kapolei Chorale | University Chorus, Hoʻokani Kulani events, and University Band.

The benefits of the University of Hawaiʻi-West Oʻahu music program – through its faculty, students and numerous collaborative efforts within the community – are far reaching, touching thousands beyond the Kapolei campus.

“Music celebrates our community’s cultural heritages, and our UH West Oʻahu music program engages our students and community members in the creation and performance of music for the community to enjoy,” said Dr. Jon Magnussen, head of UH West Oʻahuʻs music program and an associate professor in music.

Music faculty plan the semester so their students, who come from a variety of majors but all share a passion for music, experience music-making as a community engagement activity. Magnussen will present on his engaged scholarship work at the UH West Oʻahu Spring 2020 Professional Development/Convocation Day on Jan. 7.

Photo of Jon Magnussen

Dr. Jon Magnussen

“Our most recent concert ʻgiftsʻ for the community took place in December and included our University Band performing at Windward Mall, our Kapolei Chorale | University Chorus performing at the Kapolei Library, and the University Strings performing at the Ka Punawai Ola nursing home,” Magnussen said.

Also, the programʻs Hawaiian Ensemble hosts a Hoʻokani Kulanui event every semester with a well-known Hawaiian music artist, who recently have included Kamuela Kimokeo and Kamakakehau Fernandez.

“These kanikapila sessions attract 30 to 40 members of the community and allow our students to learn the art of kanikapila in a truly gracious atmosphere of fun and sharing,” Magnussen said.

The program opens up such music-making opportunities to not only the campus community, but to outside community members, as well.

UH West Oʻahuʻs music faculty members themselves are deeply involved in community service and collaborations. In October, the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra performed “The Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds,” for which UH West Oʻahu music faculty Drs. Daniel Houglum and Magnussen each contributed one of the six symphonic movements.

The project features six original compositions, five animations (UH West Oʻahu Creative Media Assistant Professor Laurie Sumiye contributed one of the animations), and one original hula about Hawaiian birds created by local composers and artists and led by UH Mānoa Associate ProfessorTakuma Itoh (Music Composition) and Melissa Price (Biology).

This partnership between UH, the orchestra, and the Bishop Museum has been experienced by over 10,000 school children since its 2018 debut, and aims to educate elementary and secondary students of Oʻahu through science, music, and art to teach about Hawaiʻi’s native bird species and the importance of conservation efforts.

Additionally, a major research area of focus of Magnussen is the expansion of music education resources for ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi communities. In October, his “Pākaʻa Lanakila!” for wind quintet and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi narrator was featured in a three-day residency at the Bishop Museum. The performances by Chamber Music Hawaii’s Spring Wind Quintet and Kalama Cabigon, ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi narrator, were experienced by nearly 600 school children and teachers. A free, downloadable Teacher Resource Guide (scroll to the bottom of the link for the resource guides) in Hawaiian and in English provided curriculum support for classroom teachers.

In November, the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra Masterworks Series featured Magnussen’s “Nā Kau ʻElua | The Two Seasons,” concerto for oboe and orchestra, commissioned by J. Scott Janusch and Live Music Awareness for the Hawaiian Oboe Legacy Project. The performances featured the special kauila oboe handcrafted from 300-year-old wood native to Kōkeʻe, Kauaʻi, by world renowned oboe maker Howarth of London.

While the UH West Oʻahu music program – which launched a new Certificate of Music in fall 2018 – offers an opportunity to create and perform beautiful, inspiring music, it also addresses the overall well-being of the community, Magnussen noted.

“Humans have always had a need to express ourselves in wordless and non-verbal ways,” he said. “By making music an important part of our campus’ offerings, we are opening all of our students and community members to the benefits of music-making, whether it be learning an instrument for the first time or continuing one’s life-long musical learning journey.”

The benefits of musical activity are well-known to enhance executive function, cognitive flexibility, working memory, and processing speed, Magnussen added.

“On a college campus, regular weekly rehearsals can also lend a much-needed stress release to a busy academic schedule and provide an opportunity to make new friends,” he said.

Images courtesy of Jon Magnussen and UHWO Staff and Mellissa Lochman