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Ethnomusicologists on Hawaiian music and mental well-being among Moloka‘i students

Courtesy Keola Donaghy

Soon after professor Keola Donaghy took over the Institute of Hawaiian Music at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, he started to dream big. He applied for $2.5 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education for a range of programs, including the opportunity to offer Hawaiian music instruction to students on Molokaʻi.

It’s hard to get large grants for anything, let alone the arts, but Donaghy had an ace in his pocket. Stephen Fox is a cultural psychologist and ethnomusicologist with UH who investigates and quantifies how traditional music benefits mental and spiritual well-being.

With the money in hand and Fox’s analytical support backing him, Donaghy set off to Molokaʻi. But the program was only one semester in when a new variable was added to the equation: COVID-19. The pandemic put both Donaghy’s commitment and Fox’s theories to the test. The result? An award-winning album. The Conversation spoke with Donaghy and Fox about the experience.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 9, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Savannah Harriman-Pote is the energy and climate change reporter. She is also the lead producer of HPR's This Is Our Hawaiʻi podcast. Contact her at sharrimanpote@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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