UH Faculty Work Together to Create the Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds

In Composition, Department News by Travis Shaver

On Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, Dr. Takuma Itoh and other UH Mānoa faculty welcomed approximately 5000 young students to see the Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds at Blaisdell Concert Hall. The project, initiated by Dr. Itoh and professors in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources and the College of Education, and involved composers, artists, scientists, educators from UH and around O‘ahu to teach young students about endangered Hawaiian forest birds through music, art, and science, and was performed by the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra with UH’s Dr. Jeffrey Boeckman conducting. Composers of the symphony include four UHM composition faculty: Dr. Itoh, Dr. Michael-Thomas Foumai, Dr. Thomas Osborne, and Dr. Donald Womack.  Prior to the concert, UH music education students led by Dr. Chet-Yeng Loong went out to schools all over O‘ahu to prepare them for the concert by introducing them to various different types of instruments and teaching them a hula about Hawaiian birds that was created specifically for this event.

The project was funded by UH Strategic Investment Initiatives from the Offices of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Vice Chancellor for Research. The composers and animators got together for the first time at the Bishop Museum in Dec. 2017 to meet with biologists and conservation experts to learn about Hawaiian forest birds: where they came from, how they evolved, why so many have gone extinct and why many of the remaining birds are endangered. Six groups were formed, each creating a 3-5 minute movement with a different focus related to birds to form the Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds. The performance also included narration, as well as a performance of the sitting hula created for the event, in which all the students in attendance were able to perform together with the UH music education students on stage who were leading.

News on the recent concerts can be read on UH’s website here. Another article on the project was written by UH in May. For more information on the project, you can visit the symphony’s comprehensive website. Finally, if you haven’t had a chance to see a performance of this fantastic project yet, the next performance will be the ʻOhana Concert Wednesday, November 14. More information on that concert can be found here.