In Summer 2022, Sofia Furtado and Michael Han, undergraduate music students from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa performed archival research and analysis of the history of programming at the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra. The project, funded by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, was done under the supervision of professor Mari Yoshihara of the American Studies department, and will serve as follow-up research to her 2007 book, Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music.
Together, Sofia and Michael analyzed a physical archive of the HSO’s programming dating back to the 1920’s. They created a digital ledger of composers, works, conductors, and soloists featured in order to analyze programming demographics. In addition to digitally archiving a century’s worth of HSO programs, Professor Yoshihara and her student mentees have continued to work with the HSO, compiling and sharing their findings with HSO stakeholders and the broader community.
Of the experience, Sofia recalls “We were learning something new about our local music community and HSO every day. It was always a special moment when Michael and I would share our findings and everybody in the office wanted to talk story about it with us.”
According to Michael, “It was a pleasure collaborating with the HSO staff through our digital archival process. We would like to thank them for allowing us to access their archives which date back almost a hundred years. Traveling back in time with these materials allowed us to break down percentages of underrepresented artists through the decades. It also provided us with valuable perspectives on cultural changes throughout the years.”
Sofia and Michael were recommended for the project by musicology professor Dr. Elina Hamilton. She recalls: “It isn’t every day that I get asked to supply names of a few undergraduate students who are interested in archival research. When I teach our general music history survey courses here at UH Mānoa, I make it a point to show my students archival materials (normally digitized manuscript images) in addition to edited scores and recordings of music. I do this to demonstrate how historical artifacts are preserved for us to study and understand the past. When Professor Mari Yoshihara informed me of a project that required creating a database of HSO programs, I knew that the students assigned to this project needed to be well organized but also appreciate the importance and significance of historical documentation. Both Michael and Sofia had completed history classes with me and eagerly agreed to take on the common musicological task of first understanding the material at hand, its historical placement or meaning, and its social and cultural context that may be significantly different from present-day norms – in this case a context that included both a local and global musical community. I knew that Michael and Sofia would be able to offer just such a perspective. When I met with them in the middle of the summer, I was impressed by their detailed records and overall enthusiasm for the task at hand. It is always exciting to be a historian, but to be involved in the creation and understanding of a local history brings new meaning to how we understand our present world within a rich and complex past.”