The Song Contest is unique to Kamehameha – a tradition that has involved students in musical competition for eighty-eight years. Miss Laura Brown, Director of Music at Kamehameha 1926-1947, stated that “the objectives of the song contest are to build up the repertoire of the best in Hawaiian music for the cultural heritage of any student who attends Kamehameha; to develop leadership, cooperation and good class spirit; and to give students the use of their singing voices and to give them pleasure in singing as a means of expression.”
The first song contest for male students was held at the School for Boys in 1921. A cup named for George Alanson Andrus, a former director of music at Kamehameha School for Boys who inspired the idea of an annual song contest, was offered as an incentive in the competition.
1922 marked the first year that both the Kamehameha boys and girls held song contests. Mrs. E. G. Scoville, a visitor to the Islands from Watertown, Connecticut, was so impressed with the singing of the Kamehameha girls that she donated the New England Mothers’ Cup for the School for Girls competition.
In 1967, an additional trophy was offered by the Trustees in honor of Charles Edward King, an 1891 graduate of the School for Boys. The trophy is awarded to the class winning the combined class competition.
The Louise Aoe McGregor Award, named for a member of the first graduating class of the School for Girls in 1897, was first presented in 1972. It recognizes the student director who has made the most significant contribution to the class in organizational ability, leadership, assistance to others, and persistence.
The Richard Lyman, Jr., ‘Ōlelo Makuahine (Mother Tongue) Award recognizes excellence in the use of the Hawaiian language within a song. Mr. Lyman, a Kamehameha Schools trustee from 1959 to 1988, was keenly interested in the preservation of Hawaiian language and culture.
The Helen Desha Beamer Award recognizes the best musical performance. Donated by the Kamehameha Alumni Association, the award honors the substantial contributions of Helen Desha Beamer to the lexicon of Hawaiian music. Helen Desha Beamer was a 1900 graduate of the Kamehameha School for Girls.
In the early years, the girls’ song contest was held in front of the Assembly Hall, and the boys had their contest in front of Bishop Hall. When the School for Girls campus on Kapālama Heights was completed in 1931, separate contests for boys and girls were held in the auditorium. In 1952, the first combined contest of the School for Girls and School for Boys Senior Division took place in Kekūhaupi‘o, the newly constructed fieldhouse. The song contest moved to the Neal Blaisdell Center in 1964 and has been attended by capacity crowds since then. A highlight of the evening is the Hō‘ike, a show to entertain and inform the audience while the judges’ score sheets are tallied. The Hō‘ike is an exhibition of the beauty of Hawaiian mele and hula.
Excerpted with permission from Kamehameha Schools (c) 2008.