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The first ever class of the Institute for Hawaiian Music at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College is a talented group says institute director George Kahumoku, Jr.

“This is the cream of the crop of Hawaiian music,” said four-time Grammy Award winner Kahumoku. He is considered by many to be a living legend when it comes to Hawaiian music.

There are about a dozen students in the program, which is dedicated to the perpetuation and preservation of Hawaiian music. Students have to go through a very competitive application and interview process before they are accepted into the 18-month program.

Institute for Hawaiian Music students are mentored by some of the greatest Hawaiian musicians around.

“If they want to learn falsetto, we hook them up with Uncle Richard Hoʻopiʻi,” said Kahumoku. “If they want to learn slack key, Uncle Ledward Kʻapana, ʻukulele, Herb Ohta. That kind of thing.”

“I always love their music. I get to meet all these guys and they get to teach me and it’s like, sometimes I have to think about and wow, is this really happening?” said Axel Menezes, a student participating in the program.

Students take a variety of music classes, a music business course and perhaps, most importantly of all, Hawaiian language classes.

“Hawaiian music is not just the music itself,” said student Travis Orozco. “It’s the culture, it’s the people, it’s the land and everything. Just learning all these bits and pieces, piecing it all together is awesome.”

The students also perform on a regular basis at actual paid gigs and have to produce their own CD for commercial release before getting their certificate of completion. The goal is to adequately prepare them for a career in music, but the program is also instilling a sense of responsibility.

“Hawaiian music that was played years before me is still being played now and is still appreciated, just as much as it was back then,” said student Adam Bediamol. “And hopefully, those who I reach can look at that and go, ya, love that music because that guy up there who’s playing it, loves that music.”

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