Michael D. Nakasoneʻs extraordinary musical journey of more than 50 years – including a distinguished 37-year career in Hawaiʻiʻs public schools and his current role as bandmaster of University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahuʻs University Band – has lead to among his biggest life achievements: induction into the National Band Association Hall of Fame of Distinguished Conductors.
“Being a bandmaster is the greatest occupation in the world,” said Nakasone, who is also bandmaster emeritus of the famed Royal Hawaiian Band. “This Hall of Fame is the greatest honor of my life. To be among the greatest bandmasters is truly unbelievable.”
The National Band Association inducted its two newest members of the NBA Hall of Fame – Nakasone and Dr. David Gregory, the founder of and the conductor emeritus of the Georgia Wind Symphony – at a special luncheon and induction ceremony Feb. 1 on the campus of Troy University in Troy, Ala., in the Hawkins-Adams-Long Hall of Honor, which houses the NBA Hall of Fame. The honor includes a painted portrait of the inductee to be hung in the hall.
Membership in the Hall of Fame is open to any American bandmaster in the United States, according to the NBA website. To qualify for nomination, a director has to be at least 65 years old, retired, and to have made a national reputation as a band conductor. The director must also have made national impact on the American band movement. The NBA Board of Electors, which represents five national band organizations, then votes on the recommendation.
Nakasone co-directs the UH West Oʻahu University Band with Chadwick Kamei, who said he is “thrilled” that Nakasone is being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“This award is a testament to his hard work in the public schools, the Royal Hawaiian Band, and UH West Oʻahu,” said Kamei, who is also the director of bands at Pearl City High School.
“He always has a positive teaching style and is quick to share his knowledge with teachers still in the trenches,” Kamei said. “We are lucky to have him with our band and able to learn from him at each rehearsal.”
Nakasone feels just as lucky.
“It is wonderful teaching the students in the West Oʻahu band,” Nakasone said. “They are excellent musicians and it is an honor for me to be working with them.”
From Hilo High School to Hall of Fame
Nakasone graduated from Hilo High School and earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees in Education from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
His decades of dedication as a music educator includes 28 years at the helm of the acclaimed Pearl City High School Bands (1977-2005), which under his direction throughout the years have performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, the Tournament of Roses Parade in California, and the Ginza Parade in Tokyo, among numerous other events and venues.
Nakasone also spent 21 years as maestro with the Hawaiʻi Youth Symphony (1989-2010) and was the only bandmaster of the Royal Hawaiian Band (2005-2010) to have had the distinction of being invited into the prestigious American Bandmaster’s Association.
Nakasone is the recipient of numerous awards, including the John Philip Sousa Foundation Legion of Honor Award in 1995, Hawaiʻi’s State Teacher of the Year in 1996, the United States Collegiate Wind Bands Citation of Honor Award in 1998, the Hawaiʻi Music Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005, and the Living Treasures of Hawaiʻi Award in 2013. Nakasone was also inducted into the National High School Band Directors Hall of Fame in 2013.
Nakasone currently directs the UH West Oʻahu University Band with his protege, Kamei.
“Our students and community members are so fortunate to have Maestro Nakasone’s inspired leadership in the University Band, as well as that of co-director Chadwick Kamei,” said Dr. Jon Magnussen, head of UH West Oʻahuʻs music program and an associate professor in music.
“When he leads the band, Maestro Nakasone creates a generous space for the band members to grow and mature as musicians,” Magnussen continued. “For me, this reflects his many years of band leadership and service to music in the State of Hawaiʻi.”
‘Greatest honor of my life’
“This wonderful award honors me as a teacher, but it is actually meant to honor the efforts of others,” Nakasone said.
The Hall of Fame induction is a tribute to the students who have given their time and talent to work in collaboration to produce excellence, Nakasone said.
“They are proof of why music education is so important,” he said. “Through music education they learn that you need discipline, commitment and determination to achieve success.”
The award is also a tribute to the community leaders who have helped the band programs through the years, as well as to the teachers and administrators on all levels who have given their wholehearted support, Nakasone said.
“It is a tribute to the many parents who through the years have poured out their time, energy, and effort to support the wonderful young musicians, their children,” he said.
Nakasone added that his induction into the Hall of Fame also pays tribute to the Royal Hawaiian Bandʻs world-class musicians, who perpetuate the music of Hawaiʻi, promote culture and aloha, and impact the lives of the people of Hawaiʻi and beyond.
“This amazing honor and award, the greatest honor of my life, belongs to the students, parents, teachers, professional musicians, administrators, and community leaders who have caught the dream of what is possible,” Nakasone said. “I would also like to thank my wife Brenda and my family for supporting me through this tremendous journey for over 50 years.”
When people work cooperatively, they can accomplish anything, Nakasone noted.
“Aia ke ola i ka mele a he makana no nā kānaka a pau – There is life in music and it is a gift for humanity,” Nakasone said.