With graduation of its first students, the success of its inaugural songwriting workshop and a quarter-million-dollar grant to create professional recording studios, Honolulu Community College’s MELE program is moving up the academic charts with a bullet.
MELE—an acronym for Music and Entertainment Learning Experience that also spells the Hawaiian word for song—promotes music industry professions from songwriting and artist management to technical production and music publishing. Students can earn associate of science degrees in music business or audio engineering with the opportunity to transfer into related bachelor’s programs as juniors in Belmont University’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business. (See Mālamalama May 2008.)
The program is built on the 21st century buzzword and global reality—“human capital.” Worldwide, businesses and governments are investing less in natural resources and manufacturing, and more in building human knowledge and skills. Human capital is seen as paramount for economic growth and the development of healthy societies where people can live good, rich lives.
In Hawaiʻi, where one of the richest sources of homegrown talent in the islands is music, MELE’s goal is to generate music that has local roots, is produced at a high level of professional skill and can earn a place in the global 21st-century music business…to the benefit of Hawaiʻi, culturally and financially.
In the MELE phrase, “it all starts with the song,” and generating music was the focus of MELE’s first Songwriters Workshop, held at Honolulu Community College over the 2009 summer.
The workshop brought five multi-million-selling award-winning songwriters in genres ranging from pop, rock and country to film/TV together with 130 participants for three intensive days. The focus was on learning music business crafts and skills, from song construction to studio production to career development.
Presenters included Ruby Amanfu, a singer/songwriter from Nashville who subsequently received the Associated Press No. 1 album of 2009 with partner Sam Brooker, and Craig Wiseman, a Grammy winner who was subsequently named the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Songwriter of the Decade.
Nearly 9 out of 10 participants rated the workshop “excellent.” MELE enrollment for fall 2009 doubled over the previous year, and demand for the 2010 summer workshop is already strong. Planning is underway; watch the
website for details.
The 2009 workshop was supported by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Outrigger Enterprises Group, Mountain Apple Company and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers—agencies that recognize the global appeal of local music. (Think National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ Hawaiian music Grammy award and Brother IZ Kamakawiwoole’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” becoming Hawaiʻi’s first platinum CD.)
In support of the technical side of the music equation, the Mike Curb Family Foundation recently provided a $250,000 gift to support the transformation of Honolulu Community College classrooms into state-of-the-art professional recording studios for MELE.
Curb, a songwriter, producer, record company owner and namesake of Nashville-based partner Belmont University, calls the studios a laboratory for MELE students.
“We have a lot of raw musical talent in Hawaiʻi, and the MELE program will help develop the infrastructure needed to support entertainers and musicians in their careers,” says MELE instructor Keala Chock. “MELE aims to bring best practices here for the benefit of the local music industry overall and to help generate high-quality music with a Hawaiʻi ‘brand’ that can build a presence in the global music business.”