Band director to be
replaced next year

The cut comes after a petition by
some in the Royal Hawaiian Band

Aaron David Mahi, longtime director of the Royal Hawaiian Band, will be replaced after band members lobbied Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann not to retain him.


Aaron Mahi: He hopes to use his remaining time to mend fences with the members

Hannemann announced yesterday that Mahi will be kept on for an additional three months while his replacement is sought. In the spring, Mahi will step down from the $99,800-a-year post he has held for nearly a quarter-century.

"It'll be a time for change, an exciting time," Hannemann said in a written statement. "We look forward to the continued success of the Royal Hawaiian Band as a culturally enriching city resource."

Mahi told the Associated Press yesterday that he hopes to use the next three months to mend fences with members of the brass band.

"It's too bad it came to this," he said.

Mahi said he had hoped to stay with the band.

"You always have a lot of things you want to do, projects you want to complete," he said.

The Royal Hawaiian Band was founded in 1836 by King Kamehameha III and is the only full-time municipal band in the United States.

Band members have criticized Mahi's abilities as a manager and band leader. Musicians recently began calling for his removal.

Of the 34 full-time band members, 25 had signed a petition saying the band has experienced decades of inconsistent labor practices and arbitrary policies, said Eric Kop, a 16-year member of the band.

Mahi has been at the helm of the band since 1981, appointed by then-Mayor Eileen Anderson. According to the band's Web site, he is the longest-serving bandmaster except for Henri Berger, who directed the band for 43 years.

Ed Michelman, president of Friends of the Royal Hawaiian Band, the nonprofit support group that raises money for the band through sales of recordings, T-shirts and other items, said the organization supported Mahi's reappointment as band master.

"He will be remembered as having taken the band to new heights and achieve national and international recognition," Michelman said.

He said those achievements included taking the band to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1988.

The City Council's Budget Committee chairwoman said Mahi's departure is an opportunity to review the band's financial numbers.

"We're going to take a close look at services that may have to be cut. Is this one of them? I don't know," Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said. "When times are hard, we have to look at cutting back."

But Kobayashi said she also recognizes that cultural activities are also important to the city and that cutbacks could take the form of helping the band become more financially self-sufficient.

"We have to look at just being able to cover costs," Kobayashi said.

Michelman said that a new bandmaster should be cognizant of the history and importance of the band. "We hope that they continue the traditions of the Royal Hawaiian Band."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Royal Hawaiian Band

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