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Ola Mau Nā Mele Makamae o Kamehameha: Eduring Kamehameha Classics

This evening we celebrate a tradition that has been a unifying experience for Kamehameha Schools graduates and an inspiration to the people of Hawai‘i for 90 years—the Song Contest. Featured in this year’s contest are favorite compositions and arrangements that have made lasting impressions on different generations over the course of the event’s history; all in their own right, are enduring classics of the time-honored “Kamehameha choral tradition."

In 1912, George Alanson Andrus began teaching music at the Kamehameha School for Boys. His untimely passing inspired the creation of the first song contest in 1921 at which a trophy bearing his name was presented to the winning class. The first contest was held at the Bishop Museum at Kaiwi‘ula, the original site of the Kamehameha School for Boys. Lighting for that humble event was provided by cars parked facing the front steps of the museum. Pairs of headlights provided intermittent illumination of those proud young men—over a hundred in all—as they raised their voices in spirited competition. Indeed, the echo of their song made Kalihi ring with pride, much to the delight of the several hundred family members and friends in attendance, seated on the grass.

A year later in 1922, the angelic voices of the young women were featured in their own contest which was held on the steps of the Main Hall of the Girls’ School located across King Street from where Farrington High School is today.

Tonight—nine decades later—some 1,800 young men and women are gathered here at the Neal Blaisdell Center Arena before a live audience of over 5,000 people. Tens of thousands more will tune-in to the live telecast and rebroadcast on statewide television. Others will watch via live streaming on the World Wide Web which receives hits from the continental U.S. and from as far away as Japan, Greece and the Netherlands. Internet and cell phone audiences are able to repeatedly relive the Song Contest experience on YouTube, share what class they are rooting for on Facebook, and offer moment by moment impressions of their favorite hula in the Hō‘ike via Twitter. Yet, with all the social, cultural and technological changes over time, much of the Song Contest tradition remains unchanged. It has always been a showcase of the very best of Hawaiian musical repertoire. A cappella choral singing is still the featured medium of musical expression. The spirit of competition continues to foster class unity and pride, and inspire the development of leadership skills. And finally, the Song Contest remains a valuable community wide educational medium for learning about, and artistically expressing our vibrant Hawaiian way of life.

As we honor the rich 90-year history of the Song Contest, so do we honor our great and beloved chiefess, Pauahi, for her foresight, compassion, and heartfelt generosity. Please enjoy, Ola Mau Nā Mele Makamae o Kamehameha—Enduring Kamehameha Classics.


“When we rode the buses up and down the hill, we sang. When there was time before dinner, we sang. When we were sitting around waiting for the dining hall to open, we sang. The older girls would lead, they’d do the singing and we would imitate. And that’s how I learned more Hawaiian songs than I’d ever learned in my life.”

Dorothy Kahananui Gillett ’36

Revered Choral Director, Arranger and Educator


“It’s a tradition. It’s a precious tradition, and a tradition is a bearer of culture in the most profound sense. It’s a bearer of stories and stories are what we are all about... As a vehicle for culture, it’s very powerful.”

Kawika Eyre

Hawaiian Language Teacher, KS Kapālama, 2010


“Music is a big part of how we keep our culture alive. It’s one of the things we pass down to the next generation, whether it’s singing a lullaby... or teaching at Song Contest.”

Kale Chang ’91

Honolulu Boy Choir Director


“The Song Contest has allowed people to grow in so many ways. Song Contest has been the fuel that has given inspiration for music, dance, drama, and literary opportunities. It is an amazing gift that has given and keeps giving.”

Heather Guigni ’72

Multi-media Producer and Director


“It teaches young adults how to conduct themselves in a proper light with the world watching and how to be the best examples of people and Hawaiians to the world.”

Maka‘ala Rawlins ‘97

KS Hawaiian Cultural Specialist


“That’s the beauty of music and what we do as musicians. We uphold and uplift the tradition.”

Aaron David Mahi ’71

Kamehameha Men’s Alumni Glee Club Director


“If not for Kamehameha, there would be no Nā Leo Pilimehana. The music we learned and the grooming we received helped to develop us into what we are today.”

Nalani Choy, Lehua Heine,

Angela Morales ’84

Nā Leo Pilimehana


“I think for the community, it’s a cultural experience. They’re not going to get any of this anywhere at the level that is produced by the song contest.”

Carole Campbell Paulsen ’55

Retired School Principal, Department of Education


“It’s very positive and sometimes the kids don’t realize how positively it is affecting them because it is bringing them together as classmates. Working together to be able to deliver this amazing performance.”

Liz Makuakane Hansen ’67

KS Special Events Coordinator