Ka Leo ʻO Nanakuli

Songs of the Islands Fill the Valley

28th Annual NHIS Songfest held on March 1, 2018

Lahela+Kaeo%2C+the+Junior+Class+Songleader%2C+conducts+her+class+in+the+28th+annual+NHIS+Songfest.
Lahela Kaeo, the Junior Class Songleader, conducts her class in the 28th annual NHIS Songfest.

Lahela Kaeo, the Junior Class Songleader, conducts her class in the 28th annual NHIS Songfest.

Aysia Kepaa

Aysia Kepaa

Lahela Kaeo, the Junior Class Songleader, conducts her class in the 28th annual NHIS Songfest.


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On March 1, 2018, the community of Nānākuli filed into the gym at Nānākuli High and Intermediate School to watch the 28th annual festival known as Songfest. As the noise in the gym quieted down, the only thing that could be heard through the community were the voices of the students of NHIS.

The theme of the 28th Songfest was Na Mele O Na Mokupuni O Hawaii Nei or Songs of the Islands.

The purpose of the Songfest is to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture and language. Each grade level prepared a song based on one of the islands and was coached on singing and pronunciation of their songs since December.

The evening began with the NHIS JROTC presenting the colors, then everyone sang Hawaii Pono’i and the Star Spangled Banner. Each special guest and judge was presented with a lei and a brief description of their background.

In order to decide how the order of performance, the songleader from each grade level came up to randomly pick a number in the order that they would perform. The ordered was the Seniors, Sophomores, Juniors, Middle School, and Freshmen.

Before each performance was presented, every class would have a speaker who would share about their class, the specific island that their class represented, and a story about their song and why they chose it.

After the performances from the classes, the Ukulele, Chorus, and Hawaiian Culture classes performed while the scores were tallied.

The Juniors won first place in the Song Award for the second year in a row. The Seniors took the Songleader Award (Mia Kaaukai-Ranis).

Alysia Kepaa
Senior Songleader Mia Kaaukai-Ranis won the Songleader Award.

Other awards handed out were as follows:

The Seniors won the following awards: Papa Ho’okeha Award (Class Spirit), $860 from Lili’uokalani Trust, Papa Ho’olokahi Award (Overall Appearance), ‘Olelo Award, and Second Place in the Song Award.  

The Juniors took home the following awards: Maxine Hee Class Participation Award, $1,040 from Lili’uokalani Trust, Coach’s Award (Leonard Kaeo, Momi Kaeo, and Ruth Kaeo), HYAASA Class Speaker Award (Junior Nalani Schmidt-Sakaba).

The Sophomores won the following: $880 from Lili’uokalani Trust and Third Place in the Song Award.

The Freshman placed Fourth in the Song Award and received $700 from Lili’uokalani Trust.

Lastly, the middle school placed Fifth in the Song Award and received $220 from Lili’uokalani Trust.

“This is a community event, everybody in the community wants to come. We don’t have enough space. There’s standing room only and some people are outside the doors straining their ears trying to hear the beautiful music coming from inside,” said Jean Nishi Student Activities Coordinator and Advisor of the event.

This is a time where the advisors get to see their kids shine after all the stress that lead up to this point.

“The benefits for me is getting to that point that they are at Songfest. Watching the kids smiling singing their hearts out and that’s just good enough for me. No matter what grade level or what group of kids they all sound good. For me the benefits are just enjoying each other,” said Jackie Ku Senior Head Advisor.

Songfest is more than just singing, the students get the ability to feel connected to their Hawaiian roots.

“I think a benefit that I get out of it is, knowing that you can connect to your ancestors in that kind of way. Feeling and letting everybody know that I am Hawaiian and this is who I am you know,” said Freshman Harley Rose Kon.

Songfest not only brought the individual classes together, but it also helped to bring the entire school together as one.

Ronald Yanos Middle School Advisor said, “Were still part of the school, even if we’re 7th and 8th grade. We’re still active in the things that are happening around the campus. So that’s kind of a positive and kind of keeps the campus closer together.”

Although there were many accolades that came with this year’s Songfest, it didn’t come without its challenges.

“I guess it’s the participation. Many many years ago when it first started they wanted it to be mandatory so all the kids participated. Then you have the teachers that feel that they lose instructional minutes things like that. Then you have the kids who just absolutely didn’t want to participate. They were making it hard for the ones who were serious about doing this. So then it became voluntary,” said Nishi.

Yanos said, “I think for us is getting students to participate. They don’t see the urgency right now because they’re still young. But as they get older in school, they start, to realize that, oh I want to participate. So, it’s getting these students to participate in Song Fest and activities in general.”

Working with a lot of different kids makes finding a common time for students to practice also a conflict.

Ku said, “One of the biggest challenges is getting kids to participate. We work around kids who are not in sports, who are probably doing duel credits, applying for scholarships, and athletes too as well. We work around that if the kids are in any one of those categories. We work around that there is a time set for practices.”

With some of the advisors doing Songfest for many years, it allows them to see the students grow.

“I’m being more proactive. Just being there for the kids letting them know we are here for them. Practicing a lot of humility. I’m very proud of ourselves. I mean being there for any of these students especially a certain class you kind of grow the bonding part. We love the kids no matter what grade they are. And we get to love these kids even more and join their last school year. We don’t know where we’re going to see them when graduation comes,” Ku said.

The audience seemed to enjoy the festival, but also have some suggestions that could help improve it.

“Participation. I like the fact that the 7th and 8th graders participated. And then as for Songfest itself, I guess, different songs,” said Malaki Logotaeao.

Jordan Savini said, “I like that, everybody was was really into it and they took it really seriously. They sounded really great, which was great though. Like I was so surprised. I was really surprised with my grade too, and I want to join next year. It’s really great.”

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