Michael D. Nakasone

Induction: February 1, 2020

Michael D. Nakasone has devoted his life to teaching and sharing music as he believes that Aia ke ola i ka mele a he makana no nā kānaka a pau – “There is life in music and it is a gift for humanity.” Hailing from the quiet town of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, his legacy as a conductor spans more than 50 years. Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Nakasone and his steady baton have led all levels of music ensembles to reach their greatest potential while his devotion to music education enabled him to inspire thousands of musicians.

Mr. Nakasone’s journey as a conductor and educator began in 1968 with an intermediate school band in the beautiful plantation village of Wahiawa, Oahu. He later became the Director of Bands for Mililani High School (1973 to 1977) leading them to the Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade (1977). He then served 28 years as the Director of Bands for Pearl City High School (PCHS) (1977 to 2005) achieving national and international acclaim with outstanding performances at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic (1990), the ABA/JBA convention (1993), the ASBDA Convention (1990 and 2001), the MENC National Biennial Convention (1998), the HMEA Convention (1997 and 2005), the Hamamatsu International Band Festival (Japan) (2001) and the Canadian Concert tour (2003 and 2005). He also led his impressive show-stopping PCHS marching bands to the Tournament of Roses Parade (1980, 1984, 1996 and 2000), the Tokyo Ginza Parade (1986), the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade (1989, 1993 and 2001), the Kelly Tires Blue and Gray Christmas Day All-Star Game (1997), the Hollywood Christmas Parade (2003) and halftime shows for NFL Pro-Bowls (consecutively from 1980 through 2000). During his tenure, the PCHS bands received numerous awards and recognitions which included the John Philip Sousa Foundation Sudler Flag of Honor in recognition of excellence in concert band performance (1992) and the Band World Legion of Honor (1995) (recognizing Mr. Nakasone as one of the 10 best band directors in the nation).

With his tireless work ethic, Mr. Nakasone expanded his musical contributions throughout Hawaiʻi as a Maestro with the Hawaiʻi Youth Symphony (1989 to 2010), the Director of the Pearl City Performing Arts Learning Center (a modern 650-seat concert hall which Mr. Nakasone was instrumental in procuring) (1992 to 2005), and as a Band Director each summer for the Kamehameha High School Performing Arts Center (1990 to 2005 and 2011 to 2019).

In 2005, Mr. Nakasone was appointed the 21st Bandmaster of the world-renowned Royal Hawaiian Band (RHB) (2005 to 2010). Established by King Kamehameha III in 1836, the RHB has the unique distinction of being the only band with a royal heritage and the only full-time municipal band in the United States of America. Under his direction, the RHB was a musical ambassador for the Aloha State performing over 300 concerts a year for audiences around the world, including a historic goodwill tour to Japan (2005). With his focus on education, he also increased the RHB’s involvement in educational and school-related programs including collaborations with the Hawaiian music instructional program, E Mele Kākou, and the Hawaiʻi Youth Opera chorus. To perpetuate the music of Hawaiʻi, the band produced four albums during Mr. Nakasone’s tenure with Hawaiian songs that had never been recorded before and its very first Christmas album.

In 2012, Mr. Nakasone returned to his educational roots as a director for the Punahou School Academy (2012 to 2017). During that time, the Punahou School bands delivered powerful Wind Ensemble performances and marched in the Presidential Inaugural Parade (2013) and the Tournament of Roses Parade (2016). From 2017 and continuing through his induction in the National Band Association Hall of Fame, he has been active as a guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator in the U.S., Canada and Japan. He has also taught bands and orchestras at several Hawaiʻi schools. Mr. Nakasone directs the University of Hawaiʻi West Oahu University Band with his protégé Chadwick Kamei (2016 to 2020).

Through dedication to his craft, Mr. Nakasone has garnered numerous awards and recognition including the following: the John Philip Sousa Foundation Legion of Honor Award (1995), Hawaiʻi's State Teacher of the Year (1996), the United States Collegiate Wind Bands Citation of Honor Award (1998), the Oahu Band Director’s Award (1998), the SBO Recognition Award-50 Directors Who Make a Difference (2002), the Hawaiʻi Music Award for Music Educator of the Year (2004), the Hawaiʻi Music Award for Lifetime Achievement (2005), the Hawaiʻi Governor’s Fine Arts Award (2005), the Living Treasures of Hawaiʻi Award from the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaiʻi (2013), and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oahu High School Marching Band Festival (2015).

Mr. Nakasone is an inducted member of the distinguished American Bandmasters Association (1998), the National High School Band Directors Hall of Fame (2013) and the National Band Association Hall of Fame (February 1, 2020). He is also a member of the National Band Association, ASBDA, MENC, HMEA, OBDA and the Mauna Loa Nimitz Lions Club (Oahu).