A link to a great story came across my feed today about a Hawaii Symphony Orchestra’s production that was really focused on resonating with the interests of the community they serve. Last month, they performed an original work, Symphony of the Hawai’i Forests for school children. (Instagram video here.)
The program featured new music performed by the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra (HSO) accompanied by new animations based on kaʻao (legends) that were created for this project that tell stories about how we can connect and care for our forests of Hawaiʻi.
Teachers were provided with online educational resources by the Mālama Learning Center about the forests of Hawaiʻi to prepare their students for the topics that would be covered during the symphony. Meanwhile, classes were encouraged to learn a hula about the water cycle so that they could then perform together en mass at the concert.
This was a significant undertaking that required collaboration with many partners, including state and federal forestry services, as well as those developing the animation, dance, and educational content. Programs like this will likely go a long way in showing students how a symphony orchestra can be relevant to their lives.
Following some other links, it appears they offer programming for adults along the same lines so it isn’t the case that kids intrigued by their symphony experience growing up only have the core classical canon as an option when they get older. In 2019, HSO presented an original concert paying tribute to the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s successful circumnavigation of the globe in 2017 using traditional navigation techniques on the voyaging canoe, Hōkūleʻa. (I wrote about the 40+ year effort to achieve that back in 2017) That too was a huge production involving over a thousand people between the singers, musicians, dancers, visual artists, etc. Again it emphasized the value of local stories to the community.