Music Builds Bridges between Honolulu’s Generations
Music is one of the most powerful tools for bringing people together, and the city of Honolulu is proving that to be true. Music helps unite Honolulu’s generations, building relationships and creating a community for all ages to enjoy.
“Music bridges generations, bringing people together. Hawaii Youth Symphony nurtures intergenerational connections, harmonizing diverse ages through the universal language of music,” says Randy Wong, Hawaii Youth Symphony’s President & CEO. “At HYS, we believe that music is a right, and that means that everyone should have the opportunity to experience its timeless and lifelong values.”
Here’s a look into some of the ways that local musical organizations foster an age-friendly community!
The benefits of multigenerational relationships
In today’s society, we often focus on the generational gap and the differences between generations. However, there is immense value in intergenerational relationships that is often overlooked. Intergenerational relationships allow for the transfer of knowledge, skills, and experience, and foster a sense of community and understanding across age groups.
These relationships can provide numerous benefits to both the younger and older generations. For the younger generation, they can learn new skills and gain valuable knowledge from older mentors, while also developing empathy and respect for their elders. For the older generation, interacting with younger people can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, as well as keep them socially active and engaged.
In particular, music has the ability to break down barriers and promote multigenerational relationships. Whether it’s students teaching younger keiki how to play an instrument, jamming with teachers, or playing for kūpuna, the shared love of music creates a common ground for people of all ages to connect.
How music can bring people together
If Honolulu doesn’t come to mind when you think of America’s most musical cities… think again! It’s not uncommon to see folks relaxing at beach parks strumming the ʻukulele, or gathered in a drum circle enjoying their time together and bonding through rhythm and melody. Musicians of all ages come together to just jam out!
Often, older family members who introduce younger generations to music. PMI 2022 ʻUkulele Workshop student Nainoa Marcus has been playing the ʻukulele for 4-5 years. “My grandparents got me into it!” he said.
Of course, we must also touch on the historical significance of music. In Hawaiʻi, music has always played an important role in bringing people together, and Queen Liliʻuokalani was a prime example of this. She used music to connect with her people, composing over 150 songs. She played the piano, the guitar, and the ʻukulele, and often hosted musical gatherings at her home, where people of all ages and backgrounds were welcome.
Queen Liliʻuokalani’s legacy lives on through her music and her commitment to intergenerational relationships. She believed that music had the power to bring people together, to heal wounds, and to build bridges between different communities. We’re proud to help today’s youth connect to her music! You can watch the PMI 2021 virtual ensemble’s rendition of “Overture On Themes From The Songbook Of Her Majesty Queen Liliʻuokalani,” arranged by Michael-Thomas Foumai, on our virtual concerts page.
Performances for the whole ʻohana
At our Hawaii Youth Symphony concerts, students perform everything from “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” to “Fly Me to the Moon,” to Sergei Prokofiev’s score from “Romeo and Juliet.” The concerts are far more than just a demonstration of our students’ grasp of classical or jazz music. They’re meant to be FUN, to show them the breadth of what they can create together, and to provide an engaging show that wows audiences of all ages.
The majority of our student concerts are open to the public, free of charge! Many of our students’ first exposure to symphonic music is attending their older siblings’ or friends’ concerts as a child. Hearing a symphony for the first time is incredibly inspiring, and even more inspiring when keiki can see their peers! They see that young kids just like them can do incredible things.
We also love that the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra shares our priority of inspiring all generations to love and appreciate music. If you aren’t familiar with the HSO, it’s not all Beethoven and Bach! Their programming covers almost all genres and encourages the whole family to come together to enjoy an evening of music. Grandparents can take their grandkids to a concert and create wonderful memories together.
This season, their series of “Peter and the Wolf” performances caters specifically to young families. We’re proud that Hawaii Youth Symphony’s very own Director of Orchestral Activities, Joe Stepec, conducts these performances!
By offering these family-friendly and age-inclusive concerts, Honolulu’s non-profit music organizations provide amazing opportunities for intergenerational bonding.
Keiki teaching keiki
The beginning and intermediate stages of music education are so important! Our organization aims to start kids off in their music education journey as early as possible, and encourage them to stick with it!
It excites us that several of our Symphony Program students have volunteered to be teaching assistants at our beginning string program at the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaiʻi. Teaching assistants help support our teaching staff and provide more one-on-one mentoring for the younger students. In the Academy String Program, a high teacher-student ratio is key to developing basic playing technique, and giving students the tools they need to feel successful in continuing their journey. Having an awesome TA helps students feel supported and encouraged to continue playing their instrument, and teaching younger students allows TAs the experience of mentoring. Mahalo nui loa to our teaching assistants!
Playing at early childhood centers
Early childhood is a crucial time for children’s development, and exposure to music can have a significant impact on their growth and well-being. It’s never too early to start introducing keiki to music. Even infants can benefit from listening to music!
The Hawaii Youth Symphony faculty makes a point to visit early childhood centers in our community and play for the keiki. These visits provide an opportunity for the youngest members of our community to experience the magic of music firsthand.
During these visits, HYS faculty members bring in a variety of instruments to expose young audiences to the different sounds they can make. Through these interactions, children develop a sense of rhythm, melody, and harmony, as well as an appreciation for different styles of music.
Playing music for the youngest members of our community is also such a fun experience for the adults involved! Our faculty love to see smiles on the kids’ faces. Playing for keiki is a chance to connect with them and to witness their joy and wonder as they discover the world of music.
For many children, these visits are just the beginning of their musical journey. Some may go on to participate in HYS programs as they get older, or to take private lessons or join school bands. Some may just enjoy listening to music. Regardless of where their musical paths may lead, these early experiences with music are invaluable.
Playing at senior residences
Music also plays an essential role in the lives of older adults. Many senior homes and care centers in Honolulu have regular music programs that invite kids and adults to come and play music for the residents. It’s a win-win situation where kūpuna enjoy live music and musicians share their talent with an appreciative audience.
Over the past few years, HYS students have helped keep the music playing for kūpuna through the pandemic. HYS students that were part of Punahou Music Club provided virtual and live Zoom outreach performances to hospitals and senior homes throughout the Hawaiian Islands. And in 2021, graduating HYS students also led a “Senior to Senior” initiative, where they packed care packages that included CDs of their concert performances, notes from the students, information on how to access more performances online, and a variety of other uplifting goodies. The care packages were delivered to senior residences and community centers across the state.
It’s inspiring to see youth showing their care for older generations through music!
Student-led Jam Sessions
Another age-friendly initiative? Jam sessions! As part of Pacific Music Institute’s summer Jazz Intensive, students from both our Jazz 1 and 2 combos have the opportunity to play together with our jazz faculty in a daily student-led jam session. The instructors jam along with the students, letting them take the lead and providing support as necessary.
If you walk into a daily jam session at PMI, you don’t see teachers up front on a podium and students taking notes on their sheet music. Looking around the circle of chairs, you just see a guitarist, a keyboardist, a drummer, all nodding together as they create a soulful groove.
The jam session encourages camaraderie between musicians of all ages and skill levels. Students may even have come into Jazz 1 with no jazz experience, and by the end of the week, they’re jamming along with renowned jazz musicians!
It’s such a great way to empower students to take a leadership role and flip the script! Our teaching method isn’t just about teachers passing their knowledge on to students. Instead, it’s a two-way street. Teachers can learn from students, mistakes are embraced as opportunities for innovation, and creative expression is celebrated.
Aside from music, there are many organizations dedicated to continuing to foster multigenerational relationships in Honolulu. Age-Friendly Honolulu, a project of the UH Center on Aging, changes mindsets about aging by empowering kūpuna, promoting intergenerational engagement, and supporting accessibility and inclusion for all. You can learn more about the project here!