[June 22: “Goodbye, Hello”] These efforts [of the Hawaii Symphony] are remarkable, and commendable, but they do not address the root of the problem. The lack of a proper space for concerts is the real challenge faced by an orchestra in Honolulu. The City & County are determined to book so many touring Broadway shows in the Blaisdell, there’s no room for a symphony season. They can’t just have concerts on the beach. They need a home. Why is the Blaisdell the best place Honolulu has for an orchestra? It’s half a century old, almost. Why wasn’t a new home built for the orchestra 20 years ago? The short-sightedness of our community is breathtaking, and heartbreaking.
Also: let’s be real. As much as symphony boosters would like to spin otherwise, tourists simply do not come to Hawaii to experience classical music, and that will not change. Go ahead and pitch it, but the prospect of a bracing dose of Brahms will surely strike most island visitors as incongruous. Most tourists do not even pursue an authentic experience of Hawaiian culture or history, so why would they seek out Beethoven during their precious, expensive island time? They want surfing, mai tais, and kitschy luaus. It’s down time, brah. Those who seek classical music spend their vacations in Boston or New York, not Honolulu. It’s up to the kamaaina to make it work–those people who are committed to making an intellectually satisfying life in Honolulu, week in and week out–and there’s no escaping that.
Rich, influential folks who call Honolulu home, take note: build a hall, and they will come. No other American city of our size and stature is so sorely lacking in world-class performance space. No place. Dusty, ramshackle towns on the Great Plains, less than a third of our size, have state of the art, new concert halls. Honolulu, alas, does not. Whose fault is that? Yours. You have built the city, and now you (and the rest of us) must live in it. Whether there’s room for a professional orchestra is still an open question–and only because of the sheer gumption and audacious passion of the musicians themselves. The rest is now up to you. Good luck.