By Wendy Osher
Sixteen schools in Maui County will participate in Maui’s only county-wide Hawaiian song and art competition, taking place next week on Maui.
The 41st annual Nā Mele O Maui Song & Art Competition is “dedicated to the cultural preservation and perpetuation of Hawaiian song, language and the arts.”
This year’s event centers around the theme “Nā Wahi Pana Aloha I Hawaiʻi,” and will showcase the beloved and legendary places in Hawaiʻi through art and song.
“Nā Mele O Maui helps instill pride in our youth by providing a rare opportunity for many of them to perform in public and compete for excellence with the support of the community,” event organizers said in a press release announcing the annual event.
Nā Mele O Maui was established in 1972, and in 2002 was honored with the prestigious Kahili Award by the Hawai`i Visitors & Convention Bureau’s “Keep It Hawaiʻi” annual awards program.
Today event organizers continue in their efforts to “foster eduction and enlightenment of Hawaiʻi’s heritage” among the youth of Maui County.
This year’s event, sponsored by the Kāʻanapali Beach Resort, will be held on Thursday, Dec. 5, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului.
The song competition features students from 23 classes in kindergarten to 12th grade, including: three classes each from Molokaʻi and Upcountry Maui, four from East Maui, six from West Maui, and seven from Central Maui.
Students will perform two songs in Hawaiian — one selected by the committee and the other selected by the participating group.
Event organizers say student choirs will be judged on language proficiency, musical competence, song interpretation, stage presence, and overall enthusiasm.
Judges this year include: Reiko Fukino, music judge; Kahuli Eldridge, language judge; and Kamaka Kukona, overall judge.
The winner of the art portion of the competition will have their artwork displayed on stage, and finalists will be recognized during a special awards presentation.
Nā Mele O Maui is made possible through community support from Kā‘anapali Beach Resort, Akakū Maui Community Television, Maui Arts & Cultural Center, Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association – Maui Region, and Mele Ukulele.
Attendance at the upcoming song competition is free to the public, however, donations will be accepted at the door from those that wish to contribute.