UH Manoa Music Department ceremony will honor longtime faculty member Barbara Smith

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Fred Lau, (808) 956-2177
UH Manoa Music Department
Posted: Apr 27, 2006

Friends, colleagues and supporters of the arts will gather at the UH Manoa Music Department this weekend as the amphitheatre and ethnomusicology wing of the complex is dedicated in the name of Emeritus Professor Barbara B. Smith.

Smith‘s tenure as a faculty member and researcher has spanned virtually the entire life of the department — from her arrival in Hawaiʻi in 1949, through her official "retirement" in 1982, and to the present day in which she remains an active contributor to the university and department as a mentor and through field work and advocacy research.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to recognize the life‘s work of an outstanding teacher, researcher and performer," said Manoa Chancellor Denise Konan. "Her service to the university stands out as an example of the excellent faculty to whom we turn for leadership and inspiration."

In her first years here, Smith taught piano performance and music theory. Among her early students were Herbert Ohta (Ohta-san) and Eddie Kamae, both recognized artists in Hawaiian music today. She was an active piano recitalist and often performed in the community, and was featured as a concerto soloist with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra.

Through her involvement with the community and her students, she became aware of the rich heritage of Hawaiian, Asian and Pacific musics and set about to understand them. She learned Iwakuni-style Bon Dance drumming, Japanese koto, Gagaku, and Hawaiian chant, attracting attention as the first female and first Caucasian performer. Beginning with Hawaiian chant and koto, she introduced ethnic music performance classes into the Music Department curriculum. Recognizing the value and potential of ethnomusicology at the University of Hawaiʻi, she also designed lecture courses and education workshops. She established the master‘s degree program in ethnomusicology in 1960. UH recognized her as a "living treasure" of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

Smith has been active in national and international organizations, such as the International Council for Traditional Music-UNESCO, Society for Ethnomusicology and the Music Educators National Conference. She held high office in the International Council for Traditional Music, College Music Society, Study Group on Musics of Oceania, and Society for Ethnomusicology. In 1986 her peers honored her with an invitation to present the Charles Seeger Memorial
Lecture, the prestigious keynote address at the national meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology. In 2001, the Society awarded her the title of Honorary Member.

She has also contributed in quiet ways. She assisted in the organization of the University Micronesian Club and helped them produce a recording of their music. She organized a number of leadership seminars for artists and arts administrators at the East-West Center, participants of which are now in national arts positions in their own countries. Most recently she undertook the final editing of the Queen Liliʻuokalani Song Book after the death of previous editor Dorothy K. Gillet, a colleague and close friend. In 1969, she received the State of Hawaiʻi Governor‘s Award for the preservation of Hawaiian Language, Art and Culture and in 1983 she was publicly recognized as a "pioneer" by a resolution of the City Council of Honolulu.