Musical influence


POSTED: Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nanakuli Elementary School fifth-graders Jayna Nahinu and Kaaina Keohokapu attended their first symphony concert yesterday and liked it so much they asked their parents to take them back.

They are among 200 students at the school who spent the past seven months learning all about the Honolulu Symphony.

Several musicians regularly visited the school since September to give basic instruction to fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders in the Music Acceleration Program, the symphony's pilot education project.

Kalau Hergenrader, Nanakuli's curriculum coordinator, said, “;They gave the kids a window on what music is about, besides the ukulele, and the Hawaiian singing (they know).”;

The musicians brought all kinds of instruments to school for the students to try out, and taught them to play recorders (simple, flute-like instruments). Groups of musicians also demonstrated how the different sections of the symphony sounded.

“;They loved it. They (the students) wanted to touch and play the instruments, especially the marimbas and drums. ... They want to touch it and feel it and live it. It's so exciting—to see them so alive and inspired; to see the energy of the musicians,”; Hergenrader said.

The program culminated in an interactive Youth Concert yesterday at the Blaisdell Concert Hall, with the students singing and playing their recorders in accompaniment with the symphony. An Office of Hawaiian Affairs grant of $47,833 made it all possible.

“;The symphony gave them a chance they wouldn't have had. We can't afford to offer this type of classical and orchestra music ... They had no knowledge or definition of what a symphony looks like and sounds like”; (before the program), Hergenrader said. “;It's so wonderful to have them bring a whole different culture to the school,”; she added.

“;The music was awesome,”; said Nahinu, who plays the clarinet in the school band.

Keohokapu, who plays the saxophone, said, “;The music was very good. I was so excited whenever they were coming (to the school) and when we got to use the instruments. I never tried a trombone or trumpet before.”;

During one class, Hergenrader recalled, “;The musicians showed them how to make music with just empty cans and boxes and whatever kitchen items they had, so they went home and spread cereal all over the kitchen”; so they could make the same music, their parents told her.

Jon Magnussen, the symphony's education director, said he and several musicians—Emma Philips, Sheryl Shohet, Maile Reeves, Claire Butin, Ben Peters and Michiko Singh—taught the students basics about rhythm, how to read and sing notes, and how to play the recorders.

“;You see that your work has an effect; that's gratifying. ... Giving kids these experiences, it strengthens us all,”; Magnussen said.