Four years ago, Flexfit marketing director Andy Song developed the inaugural POW WOW! School of Music. Now it has become one of the most popular programs in the POW WOW! Hawaii festival to date.
The annual music program allows 17 to 18 local students – ranging from from 12 to 18 years old – to expand their musical talents and to creatively collaborate with others. The program runs for two weeks, which is the week before and the week of POW WOW! Hawaii. A typical weeknight is loaded with group activities, guest speakers and rehearsals for upcoming performances. Some of the POW WOW! School of Music students go on to perform at Art + Flea, Honolulu Night Market and other venues on and off island.
“It’s really just about allowing [the students] to pursue what they love,” said program director Nicholas “Nick” Kaleikini, who added that the program eliminates the ‘competitive elements’ of music and instead emphasizes collaboration and creativity. “It’s okay to do that. It’s highly contagious just to feel their energy. Even for me as a musician, I’m always inspired by their energy and their willingness to open up and just their songwriting skills and their musicianship.”
In a world where art and music programs are seldom needed and where technology plays a role in teaching artistic skills and paving social behavior for young adults, it can becomes quite a challenge to bring a group of teens together in one room.
Fortunately, the students’ mutual love and passion for music easily tied them together.
“One of the first things [the mentors] taught us was that music was essentially a universal language,” said McKinley High School student Maia Mayeshiro. “It’s something that we breathe on our own, solo, but everyone seems to benefit from it because everyone can understand it and that’s a valuable thing to learn.”
The music program has been so successful among its participants that alumni of the POW WOW! School of Music go forward to pursue music careers and even return as mentors for the current students. This year’s mentors are Jessica Sayno, Chloe Popa, Sam Gorham and Tali Silva, whose experiences in the School of Music have helped them to grow as musicians and as individuals.
“The most gratifying thing is when I see them developing and growing as I’m working with them and knowing that I can offer a bit of insight of what music is going to be like for them down the line, and how much they’re gonna learn from this program and see how amazing it is,” said Silva, a freshman at Honolulu Community College who started becoming involved with the School of Music three years ago.
Although the popularity of the program has grown within such a short period of time, Kaleikini and Song have always kept it grassroots and to a maximum of 18 students. With a small group, students can work together and bond with each other in a comfortable setting. Other mentors, such as local DJs Gotaro and Big Mox, have also added to the collaborative effort that is the POW WOW! School of Music. With smiles, laughter and the gift of music, a sense of unity and ohana is formed into the program.
“Once we’re done with our program they become best friends outside of the school, outside of this program,” Kaleikini said. “They go to different schools. A lot of them form bands. We’ll make sure to provide gigs for them throughout the year, so just to see them work together and collaborate and keep in touch after the program. That’s something that I personally feel is that it’s so cool to be part of this. This is something that’s community-based, and that’s something that we can always give back.”
Auditions for the School of Music start on the first week of February each year at Lana Lane Studios. For more information, check out its official website, and POW WOW! School of Music on Facebook and Instagram.