Senior Recital Links Musical Tradition With Hawaiian Culture

Noah Yamashiro '24 (Center, In Red) Leads Splendid Audacity Rehearsal

As Noah Yamashiro ’24 chose the music for his senior recital, he wanted the selections to capture the full breadth of his musical journey.

The classical set was a nod to the training he had received in his four years at Pacific. There were jazz and musical theater sets, staples in Yamashiro’s repertoire from a young age. He concluded with a selection of music from Hawaiʻi, honoring a cultural heritage instilled by his family and nurtured at the university.

“It’s such a big influence on my musical journey,” said Yamashiro of the Hawaiian set in his recital, titled “Finishing The Hat,” on March 9. “I thought it would be dishonest to a senior project like this to not include something that was so impactful to me.”

While those sounds are a familiar sound on the Forest Grove Campus, where 17 to 20% of first-year undergraduate students are from the 50th state, no one, surprisingly, remembers Hawaiian music ever being featured in a music major’s senior recital.

“When I heard that, I knew I had to (include it),” said Yamashiro, who was co-chair of the musicians committee for this year’s Nā Haumāna O Hawaiʻi (NHOH) Lūʻau and Hōʻike. “We went through some old classics and we were able to showcase that genre. We were able to be proud of our heritage and the amazing music and culture that is part of it.”

The set included a mix of classic Hawaiian tunes and modern favorites, including “Kapiʻolani Pāka” by John K. Almeida, “Noho Paipai,” a traditional Hawaiian tune; and a medley of Eddy Grant’s “Drop Baby Drop” and Frankie Valli’s “Who Loves You Pretty Baby?” as recorded by The Manaʻo Company.

The recital was a major milestone for a challenging college musical journey for Yamashiro, who grew up in Beaverton and arrived at Pacific during the COVID-19 pandemic. In his 2020-21 freshman year, classes were exclusively online and opportunities for musical performance were limited to what you could do in your home or through video conferencing.

Yamashiro created his own opportunities. That fall, he arranged and recorded a multi-track video performance of Straight No Chaser’s version of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” recording all 12 parts and combining them into a single video. Scott Tuomi, Pacific’s director of choral activities, included the video as part of the Music Department’s virtual winter concert.

That is when Yamashiro realized that Pacific’s faculty were firmly in his corner, inspiring him to continue to think and create. “I was just a wide-eyed freshman trying to get through the school year,” he said. “That’s when I realized that they were willing to encourage me and accept whatever type of art that I was going to put out.”

Three years later, that same arrangement of “The 12 Days of Christmas” was the catalyst for Yamashiro to revive one of the university’s student-led a cappella groups, Splendid Audacity. Largely defunct since the pandemic, Yamashiro and 13 others reformed the group and performed the piece at the university’s Winter Choral Concert last December.

The performance was a hit and so was Splendid Audacity. The group grew to 17 performers and presented four songs at Pacific’s Spring Choral Concert on April 19.

Yamashiro directed the group and arranged most of its pieces. “I have been fortunate enough to have the members of the group allow me to arrange the pieces for them,” he said. “It’s an amazing group of singers and we completely built from the ground up. I am so proud of that.”

A double major in music performance and economics, Yamashiro plans to become an economist but music will always play a big part in his life. Being able to combine his passions for math and music in his educational journey is a testament to Pacific’s ability to send out well-rounded individuals to think, care, create, and pursue justice in the world.

“I’ve kind of seen myself as sort of a Swiss army knife,” Yasmashiro said. “I want to learn as much as I can about as many different things as I can. That’s the main thing that has motivated me in my time here.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2024