It wouldn't be much of a stretch to proclaim George Kahumoku Jr. the hardest working man in Hawaiian showbiz.
When he's not hosting his Masters of Hawaiian Music series weekly at the Napili Kai Beach Resort and monthly at the MACC, or touring world music festivals, this multi-Grammy and Na Hoku-winning musician also finds time to pursue passions for teaching, organic farming, sculpting (he has a master's degree in art), writing books, cooking, fishing, and generally promoting traditional values and culture.
A veritable Hawaiian renaissance man, George most recently expanded the resume to include director of UH-Maui College's Institute of Hawaiian Music, morning radio DJ on FM 107.5 and coffee purveyor.
‘The secret is aloha and having a vision and a team I trust … It’s huna, the secret of life where you visualize and manifest what you want to do.’
Discussing all the latest developments in his busy life, George is most excited about the establishment of the new Institute of Hawaiian Music.
Designed with the goal of perpetuating and preserving Hawaiian music, the groundbreaking college program will teach students in all facets of professional musicianship including performing, singing, composition, music theory, repertoire development, recording techniques and marketing of Hawaiian music. Utilizing a state-of-the art facility, students will be individually mentored by various masters of their instruments.
The Maui campus is already offering classes that will be a part of the developing program. Auditions for the Institute will be held in the fall before a panel of leading musicians, and the program is expected to launch in the spring.
* More information about UH-Maui College's Institute of Hawaiian Music will be available at the web address www.maui.hawaii.edu/ihm, or by calling 9843622.
The next Slack Key Guitar show at the Napili Kai Beach Resort at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday will feature Ledward Ka'apana, hosted by George Kahumoku Jr., with Da Ukulele Boyz.
George will also perform at the Playing for Change benefit concert on Sept. 17 at the MACC's McCoy Studio Theater, along with Teri Garrison, Benny Uyetake, Gail Swanson, Marty Dread, Tatyana Shapiro, Anthony Natividad and Maui Underground. Tickets are $15 plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
"It was Johnny Baldwin who had the original vision," George explains. "Hawaiian families pass on the tradition from family to family, grandfather to grandson, but a lot of families today are not set up that way. So he wanted to work out a way to pass on the music and have a mentorship program. Before he passed away he asked me to help put it together.
"This is a program where we find mentors in the community for students, like Uncle Richard Ho'opi'i for falsetto. If you want to learn slack key, we hook you up with myself or Ledward Ka'apana and the slack key masters. If you want to learn steel guitar, we hook you up with Bobby Ingano, or with Sean Na'auao or Dennis Kamakahi if you want to learn composition. And the plan is for graduating students to be able to produce an album for commercial release.
"Like how they did 'American Idol,' it's going to be Hawaiian Idol," he continues. "I want it to be a cultural thing too, so once a week we'll get together and share about taro, fishing and hunting, stuff I do in my normal life."
Currently teaching classes in slack key guitar, world music and Hawaiian ethnobotany at the college, George has been coordinating video interviews with visiting Hawaiian musicians to use as a future resource in the program.
"When Brother Noland was here we filmed him," says George.
"Every artist who comes to our shows will be recorded for the university archive," adds Nancy Kahumoku. "And they all want to participate in the mentoring program."
Next on George's plate, he is about to expand his Hawaiian music series to the country music capital of Branson, Mo. Known as "live music show capital of the world," Branson's myriad attractions will soon include "George Kahumoku Jr.'s Original Hawaiian Music Country Show."
On a three-week trial basis, George's show will be presented three to four times a day, beginning April 10, 2012, in a 780-seat theater at the Silver Dollar City theme park. Kind of like a Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm with rides and theaters, Silver Dollar City attracts around 24,000 visitors a day.
The initial show will feature Ledward Ka'apana, lap steel guitarist Bob Brozman, Maui's Da Ukulele Boyz, George's niece Kanani Enos singing and dancing, and hula dancer Wainani Kealoha from Lahaina.
"I've been working on this for 15 years," says George. "If it goes good we might run the whole thing yearround. Karen Fischer (former MACC director) is helping me put it together."
In the meantime George has been promoting Hawaiian music as a DJ on Island FM, from 6 to 10 in the mornings.
"I've been doing it for a couple of months," he reports. "I've added the Hawaiian moon calendar and stuff that happens on the farm. I want to add some stories and interviews."
Talking about farming, he's now marketing his own brand of Slack Key Coffee. "I have my own blend and I have some teas. They're all available online," he notes.
And then there's his latest CD, "Wao Akua," (Forest of the Gods), a collection of beautiful slack key instrumentals; a new cultural documentary series "Wahi Pana: Hawaii's Names and Places," that he hopes an airline or TV network will pick up; and a new book, a follow-up to his delightful "A Hawaiian Life" compendium of tales (including his hilarious attempt to gut and barbecue a net full of fish in a Westin Kaanapali hotel room).
"I have about 200 stories and I'm going to try and finish a book when I'm in Branson," he says. "When I'm in Hawaii, it's hard because I'm all over the place, but if I'm stuck in one place, I cannot farm. And I'm working on a cook book, a garden-to-the-table kind of thing."
If all this wasn't enough, he's also talking about organizing a world music festival on Maui.
"I just played a world music festival in East Lansing, Mich., and I want to bring world music to the state of Hawaii," George explains. "I want to bring all these different musicians and have a whole week, start with Maui, Molokai and Lanai first. I know it can be done."
By now some might be wondering how could one man accomplish so much?
Well, it's all about teamwork and the magic of visualization.
"My wife and son and family are really supportive," he says. "I have 15 kids and 24 grandkids, everyone helps out. The secret is aloha and having a vision and a team I trust. I just have a vision and the people come along to help, like Paul Konwiser. It's huna, the secret of life where you visualize and manifest what you want to do. I've been doing it my whole life. I leave myself open to the universe."