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Hawaii Youth Symphony

Bringing Our Islands Together Through Music

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that music brings people together! One of the biggest events of the Hawaii Youth Symphony season is our annual neighbor island tour. Each year, our most advanced students bring their passion for orchestral music to different communities across the islands. Over the past 60 years, we have visited Maui, Hawaiʻi Island, Kauaʻi, and Molokaʻi to perform concerts that are totally free for the public to attend!

Why Free Concerts?

HYS is a nonprofit organization, and it’s very important to us that the majority of our concerts are offered free of charge. Why? Not all communities have a thriving classical music scene, and we hope to spread the joy of music as far as we can. 

This is why we believe in bringing FREE community concerts to all; to underserved areas across Hawaiʻi, both in Oʻahu and beyond. As a statewide music education program, our neighbor island concert tour is just one of many ways that we support our neighbor islands. 

Our top orchestra, Youth Symphony I, is one of the finest youth orchestras in the country. Our students aspire to play like professional musicians (and often get to play alongside professionals!), so families that attend our concerts can get the full symphonic experience.

We hope for everyone in Hawaiʻi, and especially younger generations, to have the opportunity to see, hear, and feel the magic of orchestral music, regardless of financial limitations. One HYS parent volunteer said that “coming from a background with limited childhood experiences, I wanted to provide numerous opportunities for my children to grow, discover a passion, and become more well-rounded individuals. HYS has fit the bill perfectly.”

Maui Community Concert Tour 2024

In February 2024, we were finally able to travel for our first neighbor island tour since the pandemic. In the wake of the tragic Maui wildfires, it’s safe to say that everyone was really looking forward to sharing music with the Maui community.

We partnered with the Maui Arts & Cultural Center (MACC) and special guest vocalist Amy Hānaialiʻi to offer two free community concerts over the Presidents’ Day holiday. To support those displaced by the wildfires, we joined the MACC in collecting needed items for the Maui Food Bank at the venue. We also made contributions to the MACC, The Maui Pops, and the Maui Youth Philharmonic Orchestra to support music and performing arts in Maui. Mahalo to our donors from the 2023 Nā Mele gala for making this possible!

Maui Community Concert with Amy Hānaialiʻi & Maui County Students

On day one of our Maui tour, we played a fully attended concert for the public. General Admission tickets were offered free with online RSVP, and we’re proud to have booked out all the seats for this performance!

Ms. Amy Hānaialiʻi’s performance was supported through the generosity of the Vilcek Foundation.

Youth Symphony I played four of Amy Hānaialiʻi’s compositions along with guitarist Joshua Hearl and Amy herself: “Kalawaiʻanui,” “Haleʻiwa Hula,” “Mauna Kea,” and “Pālehua.” Next, Maui County students from the Maui Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and the Moloka‘i Instrumental Music Education Program joined us on stage for a Side-by-Side performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “Berceuse and Finale from Firebird,” Joe Hisaishi’s “Merry Go Round Variations from Howl’s Moving Castle,” and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio Italien.” “Maui County has immensely passionate young musicians, and a long history of terrific music educators. The students’ musicianship was self-evident, and I hope that we will see them and other neighbor island students participate in HYS in the years to come,” said our President & CEO, Randy Wong. You can read more in the concert program!

The Maui community was so supportive of our organization, and it was wonderful to hear such positive feedback from concert attendees.

“The Hawaii Youth Symphony concert was one of the BEST we’ve EVER attended. We did attend the previous 2019 concert and it was wonderful, but this was over the top!!! MAHALO NUI LOA AND THEN SOME!” – Two concert attendees

“I think I speak for everyone at yesterday’s concert at Maui’s MACC. It was absolutely fabulous! The musicians were exemplary in their excellent playing, intonation, tone, togetherness, adherence to each composer’s intent, following the conductor, discipline, and stage presentation. Your maestro, Joseph Stepec, [has a] well-honed style of conducting, always with a very clear beat. I wish I’d been able to play under him when I was playing in orchestras!… Again, mahalo nui loa for what you are doing on Oahu & for coming to Maui.” – A concert attendee

Mahalo to all who came out to enjoy the music!

Maui Listen & Learn Concert

On day two of our Maui Tour, we presented one of our Listen & Learn concerts to students from schools across the island of Maui. From instrument demonstrations to sing-alongs of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Hawaiʻi’s National Anthem “Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī,” it was great for our students to help get younger keiki excited about music. Nearly a thousand young people attended the Listen & Learn concerts, presented in partnership with the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Education Department.

“My favorite part about being a member of the Hawaii Youth Symphony was participating in Listen & Learn school concerts. These concerts helped us connect to the community and show a future generation of students how incredible music can be. I remember being one of those kids attending the HYS Listen & Learn concerts and being amazed at the various possibilities. It’s what inspired me to start playing horn in the first place.” – Caleb Tamargo, HYS Class of 2024

At both our school concerts and community concerts, we raise awareness of the opportunities that exist to get involved in instrumental music. We welcome neighbor island students to join our Symphony, Academy, and Jazz programs and summer music camp, and offer travel assistance, financial aid, and free instrument loans to help increase access to music education in Hawai’i.

Bonding Through Community Service

We hope that the Neighbor Island tour is valuable to our students, just as it is to the communities we serve. HYS Concert Parent volunteer Wade Nobuhara volunteered to serve as a chaperone for our 2024 tour to Maui, and shared that “the Neighbor Island Tour provided many opportunities for students to strengthen friendships within their sections and to meet musicians in other parts of the orchestra,” adding that “it was comforting for some of them to realize they also share so much common ground outside of music, be it interests, activities or experiences.

Traveling together and participating in memorable performances like these is such a special experience for our students to bond with each other and make memories that they can take with them for the rest of their lives. HYS Alumna Louise Ing shared these photos from a 1969 Hawaiʻi Island trip and Maui trip, noting that playing alongside talented musicians in HYS prepared her to go on to play in the Yale Symphony Orchestra in college.

Mahalo for Supporting Our Mission!

Flying 80+ young musicians to another island is no small task! From our admin and operations team, to our conducting faculty, to our team of 10 amazing volunteer chaperones, we’re grateful to everyone who took a leadership role in putting together all these moving parts. Bringing a large group of high school students on an overnight trip takes a village! We are also grateful to all of our amazing donors, including the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation, the Vilcek Foundation, and the Hawaii Community Foundation, for making this happen for our keiki and for the Maui community. You can read more about our neighbor island tour in our newsletter!

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