The Kamehameha Schools Song Contest has been an annual tradition since 1921. Kekoa McClellan, bedecked in leis, led the senior boys in last year's competition. Each high school class sings a coed piece, with sophomores, juniors and seniors then singing a men's and women's piece.

Songs from the heart

The Song Contest creates treasured
moments and builds class unity

Athletics energizes campus
You asked
About this page

By Ke'ala Conching
Kamehameha Schools

Kamehameha Schools' annual Song Contest is a grand, monumental event that involves tremendous amounts of preparation and rehearsal. In the end it is a unforgettable experience that forms class unity and pride and builds character.

Song Contest

The songs featured this year provide the audience and judges with pleasing images and old sentiments of those beloved places.


Coed: "Kaulana 'o Hilo Hanakahi" speaks about the beauty of Hilo's famous landmarks.


Coed: "Kona Kai 'Opua" lists famous cites along the tranquil Kona Coast.
Men: "Waipi'o" recalls the hospitality of the 'I'i family and describes the Laulani wind.
Women: "Na Wai Kaulana" centers around the famous streams of Maui: Waikapu, Wailuku, Waiehu and Waihe'e.


Coed: "Uakea O Hana" speaks of the beautiful kauiki and the white, misty rain on Hana, Maui.
Men: "Beautiful Kahana" describes and praises the natural beauty of the home of Mary Foster in Kahana.
Women: "Nohili e" describes the beach currently known as Barking Sands on Kauai.


Coed: "Ua Nani Kauai/Nani Wale Lihue" is a medley that speaks of the beauty of Kauai, from the rains of Hanalei that beat upon the sand to the birds that romance the rose blossom.
Men: "Ka Uakea/Kalepa" is another medley that speaks of the misty rains of Hana and the icy cold waters of Kalepa in Kaupo.
Women: "Paliakamoa" describes the site of a boat landing at Honoipu, Kohala.

This timeless tradition weaves together memories, history and the glorious hope of winning those prized trophies and bragging rights.

Song Contest originally began in 1921 with the Kamehameha School for Boys. Initially called the Inter-class Song Competition, it was a competition between students in grades five through nine. Each class was required to sing two songs, one of which had to be Hawaiian.

According to school archivist Janet Zisk, the first Song Contest was held on the front steps of Bishop Museum in the dark. The only light available came from automobile headlights. The following year, the Kamehameha School for Girls held its first competition at the old assembly hall located opposite Farrington High School's current location.

Over the years, the locations of both events moved from their original locations to the Kapalama Heights campus. In 1964 the event moved to what is now known as the Neal Blaisdell Center.

Format changes have also taken place over the years. Classes originally were divided into two divisions: the junior division, for grades seven to nine; and the senior division, for grades 10 to 12. The junior division was discontinued in 1956 because of an increase in student enrollment.

Although there are no junior and senior divisions anymore, there are different aspects of Song Contest. Each high school class sings a coed piece. Sophomores, juniors and seniors then sing a men's and women's piece.

Song Contest is one event students anticipate all year long. Memories and unforgettable moments are made and treasured each year. Whether it is the previous day spent rehearsing at Blaisdell, the pre-Song Contest butterflies or the pride expressed during performances, every student has his or her favorite part about Song Contest.

Students also spend time calculating the most effective ways of smuggling in food, decorations, makeup, balloons and cell phones, none of which are officially allowed in the performance arena. Contraband items are hidden anywhere from muumuu dress sleeves, underneath shirts, in pockets and taped onto legs.

Four-year coed song director Alika Young said: " I like Song Contest because it is a chance to emphasize class unity, and it's a good way to share talent with the class. There is no other place where you can find this but at Kamehameha."

Due to the popularity of the event and increased demand for seats, the Song Contest first aired on the radio in 1953 and made its television debut in 1968. The 2000 Song Contest was the first presented live on the Internet.

Each year's Song Contest focuses on a theme. This year's is "Na Mele Pana," "songs of beloved places."

"Mele pana are songs that speak of the unique qualities of a region," said performing arts director Randie Fong. "Typical attributes include names of rains, winds, landmarks and historical events. The purpose of this theme is to highlight a community's identity, which it derives from its sense of place."

Ho'ike, one of the largest productions hosted by Kamehameha Schools, is one of the major attractions and appeals of the Song Contest.

"Ho'ike is a Hawaiian cultural, mixed-media production that showcases student talent to inspire and enrich the Hawaii community," Fong said.

Auditions for Ho'ike began last November, with 31 girls and 35 boys eventually chosen to perform in the show, televised live on KHON. This 66-member hula cast practices every Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. beginning Jan. 24, plus additional rehearsals nearer the performance date, totaling at least 36 hours of scheduled practice.

Each year, the competition among the classes is fierce. Every class attempts to win over the judges and capture the hearts of audience members.

"Judges are chosen based upon their knowledge and experience in relation to the specified theme," Fong said.

Experts in Hawaiian language, choral performance and overall appeal are selected each year.


You asked

What do you like best about the annual Song Contest?

Kawohi Mahuka

"Bringing my broomstick so we can sweep."

Jacob Bodie

"Seeing all of the pretty girls at Song Contest."

Galen Santana

"Seeing all the classes come together as one."

Sara Andrade

"When the balloons pop during Ho'ike and all the teachers look."

Kera Yong

"Our wonderful, hour-long practices."

Anuhea Nakahara

"Definitely not rehearsals."

Carina Chernisky

"Getting to hear everyone sing."

Jim Slagel

English teacher
"I think there are so few common experiences kids share. It is really cool to see the students come together."

Robert Asagra

"The competition, because there is none."

Luis Sanchez

Spanish teacher
"Being a minority, it is overwhelming to see all of the students participate in their culture. It's great to see the students carry on the Hawaiian traditions."


About this page

Each week, Hawaii's teenage reporters and photographers tell us about their high school. This week's school is the Kamehameha Schools.

Newspaper: Ka Mo'i
Co-editors: Tariya Enos and Kyle Galdeira
Faculty adviser: Elizabeth Truesdell

Next week: Kealakehe High

Warrior facts

Address: 1887 Makuakane St., Honolulu 96817
Founders: Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop and Charles Reed Bishop
Founded: 1887 (boys), 1894 (girls)
High school principal: Anthony Ramos (2001-02 Hawaii State Principal of the Year)
Yearbook: Ka Na'i Aupuni
Other Kamehameha campuses: At Pukalani, Maui, and Keaau, Hawaii (both go through ninth grade)
Preschools: 32
Mascot: Warriors
School colors: Blue and white

Class colors:
2003: Pink
2004: Yellow
2005: Red
2006: Purple

By the numbers

Acres occupied by the Kapalama campus: 600
Major buildings: 70
Miles of road: 7
Athletic fields: 7
Tuition for a day student: $1,518
Total cost to educate a day student: $22,300
Tuition for a boarder: $2,970
Total cost to educate a boarder: $41,900
High school teachers: 165
First graduating class: 1891
First newspaper issue: 1889
School-sponsored clubs: 20

Student enrollment by grade:
Grade 9: 446
Grade 10: 442
Grade 11: 438
Grade 12: 448

Range in prices of girls' uniforms:
$48 for a pair of shorts and a polo shirt to $44.50 for a long, sleeveless, aloha print dress

Range in prices of boys' uniforms:
$45 for a pair of shorts and a polo shirt to $61.50 for an aloha print shirt and a pair of slacks

School-owned vehicles:
Approximately 150

School-owned buses: 26

Bus pickup areas: 19

Students who catch the bus in the morning and afternoon:
More than 1,400

Meals served at 'Akahi Dining Hall per month: 79,000

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