Dedicating 36 extraordinary years to Hawai‘iʻs public schools, receiving the Hawai‘i Music Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005, and serving as bandmaster of the famed Royal Hawaiian Band from 2005 to 2010 — these are just some of the accomplishments that have earned University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu’s University Band co-director Michael Nakasone the National Band Association 2022 Al & Gladys Wright Distinguished Legacy Award.
The National Band Association announced earlier this year that Nakasone, along with Marcellus Brown, the Director of Bands at Boise State University in Idaho, were the winners of the award, which is presented for lifetime achievement.
“I was really surprised and very humbled,” said Nakasone, who was also inducted into the National Band Association Hall of Fame of Distinguished Conductors in 2020. “It is truly a huge, huge honor to be the recipient of this very prestigious award.”
The National Band Association is the largest professional organization for bands in the world, according to its website. Nominees of its Al & Gladys Wright Distinguished Legacy Award must have a minimum of 30 years of distinguished service to the profession, supporting the mission and goals of the National Band Association, which include the promotion of the concert band and concert band music, teaching, mentorship, scholarship, and service to the band profession.
“Bandmaster Nakasone is a wonderful example of what one can achieve when we have passion, dedication, and excellence,” said Chadwick Kamei, founder and co-director of UH West O‘ahu’s University Band. “He has paved the way for music educators and musicians around our state to bring out the best in all that they do.”
Nakasone’s 50-plus years of dedication as a music educator includes 28 years at the helm of the acclaimed Pearl City High School Bands (1977-2005) and 21 years as maestro with the Hawai‘i Youth Symphony (1990-2010).
Nakasone is the recipient of numerous awards, including the John Philip Sousa Foundation Legion of Honor Award in 1995, Hawai‘i’s State Teacher of the Year in 1996, the United States Collegiate Wind Bands Citation of Honor Award in 1998, and the Living Treasures of Hawaiʻi Award in 2013. Nakasone was also inducted into the High School Band Directors National Hall of Fame in 2013.
“I feel that I have been fortunate in my career for doing what I love best — teaching music,” Nakasone said. “Being a bandmaster is the greatest occupation in the world. I always aspire to instill a love of, respect for, and ability to perform music with excellence in all that I teach. I love that our musicians have demonstrated outstanding dedication, superior musicianship, positive attitude, outstanding leadership, and service to our community.”
Kamei, who is also the band director at Pearl City High School since 2006 and a High School Band Directors National Hall of Fame member, said UH West O‘ahu is so fortunate to have Nakasone as one of its directors of the University Band.
“This award exemplifies what we all have experienced working with him throughout these past 7 years,” Kamei said. “I’m so happy for him and having UH West O‘ahu be part of his illustrious career.”
The feeling is mutual for Nakasone.
“I really enjoy working with the University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu Band,” Nakasone said. “It’s a real pleasure and privilege.”
Nakasone is the associate bandmaster of the University Band and Kamei is its head bandmaster. Their most recent event co-directing the band was the UH West O‘ahu Spring 2023 Commencement, May 6 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The National Band Association Al & Gladys Wright Distinguished Legacy Award was established in 2020 and serves to recognize achievement in leadership, teaching, and/or other professional experience, mentorship, and service to the band profession, according to the association’s website.
“This award is a tribute to the students, parents, teachers, professional musicians, administrators, and community leaders who have worked to make dreams come true,” Nakasone said.