Our Pacific Music Institute 2023 concerts were the perfect finale to a week full of music! Our students worked hard throughout a week-long intensive, some learning to play a new instrument for the first time, and others honing their skills. On the last weekend of PMI, we were treated to performances from both small groups and larger bands and orchestras. We heard music from all genres, including jazz, classical, K-Pop, and more!

Building Confidence Through Performance

At PMI, some programs are more about advancing our musical technique, and others are more about trying new things! We definitely have to give our ‘ukulele, jazz, and freestyle learners tons of credit– it takes confidence to learn improvisation, a new instrument, or a new genre in a week… and then perform what you learned on stage!

Strumming New Sounds

PMI 2023 'Ukulele Workshop Performance

At the end of our 5-day workshop, our ‘ukulele students sounded amazing playing “Heart & Soul,” “Für Elise,” and “Ukulele Waltz.” We have both beginning and intermediate ‘Ukulele Workshops available, so seeing keiki as young as 11 years old or students who had never picked up an ‘ukulele before confidently perform these classic songs was awesome! In addition to being a great instrument to learn general musicianship, the ‘Ukulele Workshop is also a cool opportunity for students from the continental U.S. or Pacific Rim to learn more about Hawaiiana from influential local musicians.

Second Line to Sound Painting

Our Jazz Intensive students paraded onto the stage- literally! The Jazz Intensive & Freestyle String Ensemble concert opened with all 20 of our Jazz students marching into the auditorium to Joe Avery’s Second Line. This popular tune has roots in New Orleans, where it is often played by brass bands in parades. What a way to open!

PMI 2023 Jazz Intensive Students Marching Rehearsal

Once everyone reached the stage, our Jazz faculty led them through an improvised soundpainting performance. In soundpainting, students improvise based on what the conductor signs to them. It comprises more than 1,500 gestures, and it was cool to see all that they learned throughout the week! After soundpainting together, our Jazz Intensive broke into their smaller jazz groups and Jazz 1 and 2 each played three songs. The audience enjoyed their performances of songs like “Bag’s Groove,” “Mambo Inn,” and “Filosophical Flying!”

Performing Eclectic Styles

New to PMI 2023, the Freestyle String Ensemble was led by talented classical and jazz violinist and educator Duane Padilla. Mr. Padilla is currently on faculty at the Punahou Music School and Chaminade University and is serving as Chairman of the American String Teachers Association Eclectic Styles Committee. His passion for teaching and playing different styles of music on the violin inspired him to create the Freestyle String Ensemble and broaden string students’ horizons.

The ensemble was composed of 12 violinists, three violists, and four cellists. They played several genres, as well as completely improvised music, on stage at McKinley High School’s beautiful auditorium!

One Strings Program student said that exploring different kinds of genres in music was the highlight of their experience, and another said that PMI helped them gain more confidence when playing and performing. We’re glad to hear that our students enjoyed the music as much as we did!

Moving Large Ensemble Pieces

Freestyle String Ensemble Instructor Duane Padilla

We had four large ensembles at PMI 2023, and each one of them put on an incredible show. In Hawaiʻi, school band and orchestra programs can be pretty small, so it’s always exciting to see and hear large groups of young musicians play together! By gathering music students from all over the state, we were able to diversify the types of instruments in each ensemble to create a well-rounded sound.

PMI 2023 Middle School All-State Band Concert

After the Freestyle & Jazz concert, our three largest ensembles took the stage. First to perform was our Middle School All-State Band, conducted by Mr. Wayne Fanning and Mr. Guy Lum. This Middle School band is a full band composed of wind, brass, and percussion instruments. With 10 flutes, 12 clarinets, 2 bass clarinets, 3 oboes, 3 bassoons, 7 alto saxophones, 6 tenor saxophones, 1 bari saxophone, 7 horns, 13 trumpets, 5 trombones, 5 euphoniums, 5 tubas, and 9 percussionists, this was our largest program at PMI 2023!

These students were selected by their Middle School’s band director to participate. Since students are selected from schools all over Hawaiʻi, many of them got to play with a much bigger band than they usually would, and had the opportunity to make new friends they would not otherwise have met.

One All-State Band student said that “the highlight of PMI was meeting new people from different schools and getting along with them to have an amazing performance.”

PMI 2023 Wind Ensemble Concert

Next on the concert program was our Wind Ensemble, an opportunity for intermediate to advanced wind, brass, and percussion players to challenge themselves. Our Wind Ensemble students were so dedicated! They rehearsed daily for 3 hours, with an 85-minute instrument-specific workshop followed by an 85-minute full ensemble rehearsal. That doesn’t even include the practicing they did outside of rehearsal, or the time some of them spent participating in Symphony Orchestra rehearsals! Their concert performance consisted of five pieces conducted by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Director of Bands, Dr. Adam Kehl, and National Orchestral Institute + Festival Director Richard Scerbo. It was a fun and impressive selection of music!

Richard Scerbo conducting the OLA Symphony Orchestra

The Wind Ensemble performances were followed by our OLA Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hawaii Youth Symphony Orchestra Director and PMI Artistic Director, Mr. Joseph Stepec, and National Orchestral Institute + Festival Director Richard Scerbo. The Symphony Orchestra consists of students from both our Strings Program and Wind Ensemble program. This ensemble is an opportunity for PMI’s most advanced students to play in a full symphony orchestra. Since school music programs typically have a strings-only orchestra and a marching or concert band, playing in a full symphony is a unique experience for many young musicians! Their performances of Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5,” Grieg’s “In Autumn,” and Bernstein’s “West Side Story” sounded like a professional symphony! 

Students Shine on Stage in Small Groups

Chamber music is a huge part of the Pacific Music Institute experience! Whether you play a string or band instrument, you’ll have the opportunity to play in both a large ensemble and a chamber group.

PMI 2023 Solo & String Quartet concert

Chamber music is special because there’s nowhere to hide! Each player’s sound is heard loud and clear, so it takes precision, unity, and listening skills to succeed. And it’s extra nerve-wracking! Our artist-faculty are all musicians themselves, and they spend some of their coaching time teaching students how to manage performance anxiety and what to do if you make a mistake on stage. 

At PMI 2023, we had 16 string ensembles, as well as an oboe ensemble, horn ensemble, saxophone ensemble, low brass ensemble, flute ensemble, clarinet ensemble, percussion ensemble, and trumpet ensemble. Our faculty members selected pieces for their group that would challenge the students and sound amazing on their instrument. At the concert, each group performed a piece they had been working on together. It was clear to the audience that these students had not only honed their technical skills, but also developed a deep understanding of the nuances and dynamics of their instrument.

Low Brass Ensemble after the Wind, Brass, Percussion Concert

It was also heartwarming to see camaraderie and support develop among the students. In between chamber music rehearsals, it’s common to see students helping each other with difficult parts of the piece, lifting each other up by providing encouragement and feedback, and just hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. 

From jazz combos to chamber music, these opportunities to practice and perform with a small group were a testament to the power of collaboration and the joy that comes from making music with others.

Want to See the Performances?

You’re in luck! Video recordings of the concerts are available on the PMI website. Mahalo to McKinley High School for providing a beautiful venue for our PMI 2023 concerts, and congratulations to our students on all their hard work!