PEARL CITY — The Pearl City Cultural Center on the Pearl City High School campus was renamed as the Michael D. Nakasone Performing Arts Center in recognition of the renowned band master's contributions to music education and band programs across the state in a celebratory concert today. Nakasone’s illustrious career spans over five decades and includes both public and private schools and some of Hawaiʻi’s most storied ensembles. Nakasone, 77, began as band director at Wahiawa Intermediate School in 1968 and went on to direct music programs at Mililani High School, Pearl City High School, the Hawaiʻi Youth Symphony, the Royal Hawaiian Band, Punahou School, Kamehameha Schools and, currently, at the University of Hawaiʻi at West Oʻahu. He is widely regarded as the single most influential and respected band director in Hawaiʻi.
“This incredible honor is meant to honor the efforts of many,” said honoree Michael Nakasone. “It is a tribute to the community leaders, government leaders and legislators who have continued to support this wonderful complex, to the teachers and administrators on all levels who have given their whole-hearted support, to the many parents and band boosters who, through the decades, have poured out the energy, time and finances to support their young musicians, and most importantly, it is a tribute to the students who have given their time and talent to produce musical excellence.”
The renaming ceremony included honors from Gov. David Ige; former Govs. Ben Cayetano and John Waihe‘e; Sens. Michelle Kidani, Bennette Misalucha and Clarence Nishihara; Reps. Gregg Takayama, Sylvia Luke, Roy Takumi and Henry Aquino; former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann; Honolulu City Councilmember Brandon Elefante; Superintendent Keith Hayashi; Assistant Deputy Superintendent Heidi Armstrong; and Complex Area Superintendent Keith Hui.
The program also included stirring musical tributes by a 100-member select band ensemble composed of current and past members of Nakasone’s most distinguished bands and members of the Nakasone family. Nine guest conductors who collaborated with or were former students of Nakasone led his favorite musical numbers and included current and former band directors of Pearl City High School, Mililani High School, Moanalua High School, the Royal Hawaiian Band, and universities in Virginia, Alabama and Tennessee.
“I could not think of a more perfect person to have their name on this building, to inspire the next generation of band students to dream about all they can be and don’t let anybody or anything deny them from pursuing their dreams,” Governor David Ige said. “On behalf of the people of Hawaiʻi and the people of Pearl City, thank you so much for your dedication, for your inspiration and for teaching us about being truly world-class in everything we do.”
Nakasone’s dedication to students has extended to all schools throughout his career as exemplified by his leadership of the Leeward District Band Festival, the Oʻahu Interscholastic Association (OIA) Band Festival and his continued assistance to other school band directors in developing their concert and marching band programs. He has also assisted parent booster clubs from other schools in coordinating and fundraising for their band trips. His work leading Pearl City High School’s summer marching band clinics also led to the participation of intermediate and high schools from all islands.
“His tireless efforts have helped to develop music programs across the state at all levels, from students learning their instruments and how to play in a group for the very first time, to our finest public and private school programs and our state’s most historic and respected bands, Mike has been able to connect every organization he’s touched and bring them together to the benefit of music and music education in Hawaiʻi,” Superintendent Keith Hayashi said. “He is a humble man who will never take credit, but countless families throughout Hawaiʻi have been touched by his dedication to our students and his passion for education.”
Born and raised in Hilo, Nakasone graduated from Hilo High School and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. His status as a master teacher has been credited to his continual professional development, attending music workshops and symposiums, and his constant interactions with the finest musicians in the world, to the benefit of his professional growth and that of his students.
His distinguished list of honors include National Band Association Hall of Fame of Distinguished Conductors inductee (2020), the Oʻahu High School Marching Band Festival Lifetime Achievement Award (2015), the Honpa Hongwanji Living Treasures of Hawaiʻi award (2013), High School Band Directors National Association Hall of Fame inductee (2012), the Governor’s Fine Arts Award (2005), the Hawaiʻi Music Award Lifetime Achievement Award (1998), Hawaiʻi State Department of Education State Teacher of the Year (1996), and John Philip Sousa Foundation Legion of Honor inductee (1995).