Hawaiian Music Muted at UH?

fall semester of 2004 could be the last for University of Hawai’i at Mänoa’s single
course in slack key guitar. The popular class, taught by lecturer and renowned
slack key artist Peter Medeiros, narrowly escaped the axe in April when Chancellor
Peter Englert and University of Hawai’i President Evan Dobelle responded to a
public protest of those and other cuts in Hawaiian cultural classes by providing
an additional $100,000 to the UH Mänoa College of Arts and Sciences. The cash
injection also saved two hula classes and a Hawaiian Choral Ensemble program.
But the stay of execution could prove temporary. The administration could make
no promises to provide further funding, according to Victoria Holt Takamine, one
of two kumu hula at UH. That might mean curtains for a handful of popular classes
and a marked reduction in Hawaiian cultural offerings

of Hawai‘i President Evan Dobelle meets with students protesting cuts to
the university’s Hawaiian music and culture classes. Photo:
Sou-Chung “Sau” Hsu, Ka Leo O Hawai‘i

official reason for the cuts is that UH has had to somehow absorb a 50 percent
rise in student enrollment over the past five years with essentially the same
budget from the Hawai’i State Legislature. That may be true. But the real reason
that slack key and hula classes appear to be on the brink is more troubling. UH
Mänoa simply hasn’t made a real effort to keep it Hawaiian. Currently, in the
music and dance departments, not a single scholar of hula, slack key, chant or
any other indigenous Hawaiian performing art holds a tenured post or tenure track
position. This is despite consistently full classes in the Hawaiian cultural disciplines,
which illustrates both student interest and the economic viability of these offerings.
“The status quo speaks volumes. I would think there would be a place for at least
one tenure track position considering how many kids show up for my classes and
want to learn Hawai’i’s native art forms,” says Holt Takamine.

In the schools’
defense, Dean of Arts and Humanities Judith Hughes points out that many music
and dance classes have been axed as a result of annual budget cuts to non-science
portions of the university.

To be sure, President Dobelle has made Hawaiian
studies and culture a priority for his administration. And Chancellor Englert
won acclaim for support of Maori arts, culture and scholarly pursuits during his
last gig as the head of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

problem are zealous tenured faculty members, protecting their own turf, who have
forced the issue with the budget cuts. No tenure means no clout and no union backing.
So classes with single-digit student enrollments in relatively obscure majors,
when taught by tenured professors, are given priority over the Hawaiian cultural
offering. In other cases, departments are unwilling to abandon classes in scantily
populated majors because that could leave matriculating students high and dry.
Regardless of who holds the most blame, the result will likely be the same; a
flagship campus at Mänoa that is becoming less and less Hawaiian.


June 4 on, local public school graduations commence.

6 marks the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the pivotal Allied invasion of Nazi Germany-occupied

June 14, is Flag Day. On that day in 1777, the Continental Congress passed the
first Flag Act to establish an official flag for the new nation.

is out for the June 11 state holiday, King Kamehameha I Day. Ceremonies include
the traditional lei-decorating of the downtown King Kamehameha I statue as well
as Big Island events (586-0333 for information).

Day is June 20.

begins June 21 with the summer solstice, longest day of the year. Clean that air
conditioner filter-this month, Honolulu’s average high temperature leaps from
the mid-70s to nearly 80 degrees, where it stays through September.

is Aquarium Month, Diary Month and Gay Pride Month. You may want to celebrate
with a day at the 50th State Fair, running through June 20 at Aloha Stadium (682-5767
for hours and info).