Bill stresses 'Hawaiian' in band
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
Honolulu's future leaders of the Royal Hawaiian Band would need to be fluent in the Hawaiian language and promote the band as a historic link to Hawai'i's monarchy, history and culture, under a bill proposed yesterday in the wake of the ouster of the current bandmaster.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced in December that he planned to replace longtime bandmaster Aaron Mahi after the Native Hawaiian music leader failed to place in the top three chosen by a selection panel.
Last week, Hannemann named Pearl City High School band leader Michael Nakasone, who has been a music educator with the state Department of Education for 37 years, to take on the job of leading the nation's only municipal band.
City Council member Barbara Marshall wrote the proposed measure to tighten the qualifications after being "shocked" to learn that nothing in the city ordinance spelled out the unique cultural role of the Royal Hawaiian Band as a crucial link to Hawaiian music, history and culture.
"I can't justify spending $1.6 million a year on the country's only municipal band if it doesn't perpetuate Hawaiian music," Marshall said.
Hannemann noted that Nakasone has led one of the state's best-known high school music programs for years. But Nakasone's qualifications haven't slowed the criticism over the replacement of Mahi, who is well-respected for his 24-year tenure as the band's leader, his fluency in Hawaiian and support for the classical music of Hawai'i, performed from the 1860s to the 20th century.
Marshall acknowledged that her proposal would likely have no effect on Nakasone's appointment because his confirmation would be decided by the council by the time her proposal could become law.
Marshall said she does not know Nakasone and has not reached an opinion about whether she would support his confirmation. She said the issue is larger than the individual. "It's not about him personally; it is about the qualification for a band director," she said.
She said she believes fluency in the Hawaiian language is key. "I don't see how you can interpret Hawaiian music if you don't understand the language," she said, but added "it doesn't say the band director needs to be Hawaiian."
Councilmembers Ann Kobayashi and Todd Apo also supported the bill. Asked to comment on the proposal, Hannemann said, "The bill, if passed, would not affect my appointment of Mike Nakasone to the position of Royal Hawaiian bandmaster."
Hannemann was so sensitive to criticism over replacing Mahi that he took the unusual step of saying that another Native Hawaiian — Clarke Bright, a band director at Kamehameha Schools — had been his first choice but turned down the job.
Marshall said she doesn't sense a push to reject Nakasone. But she believes that the cultural heritage should be preserved. "I just don't want to see the Royal Hawaiian Band turned into a hip-hop marching band," she said.
Seen at http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2005/Feb/10/ln/ln09p.html
Yeah... OMGSTFU, Mayor Hanneman.