About Me

Aloha, my name is Joseph Keola Donaghy. I am an Assistant Professor of Music, the faculty coordinator of Music Studies and the Institute of Hawaiian Music University of Hawai‘i Maui College. Outside of my work at the College, I am very active in the Hawaiian music community. I am a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (“Grammy Awards”) and a former member of the Board of Governors of the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts (“Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards”).

I attended Kīhei Elementary and St. Anthony High School on Maui. Our family moved to Hilo in 1994 when I enrolled at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Hawaiian Studies from UH-Hilo in 1999, a graduate certificate in Telecommunications and Information Resource Management from UH-Mānoa in 2000, and a Master of Arts in Hawaiian Language and Literature from UH-Hilo in 2003. In my MA thesis, I compared stress patterns in the Hawaiian language as spoken and sung, by analyzing the compositions and musical performances of John Kameaaloha Almeida.

I also hold a Ph.D. in Music (Ethnomusicology focus) from the University of Otago in Dunedin, Aotearoa (New Zealand), where my wife, daughter, and I spent six months in 2008. My thesis is entitled “The Language Is The Music: Perceptions of Authority and Authenticity in Hawaiian Language Composition and Vocal Performance”, the result of an ethnographic inquiry that engaged seventeen practitioners of haku mele (Hawaiian language poetic composition) and vocal performance in discussions about recordings of their choosing. You can find some of my writings under the “Academic Life” link in this blog’s masthead.

Keola at Oideas GaelIn the summer of 2002, my wife and I traveled to Ireland to research the state of the Irish language and the programs working to perpetuate it. I documented this trip in a travel blog which is only available in Hawaiian. There are some nice pictures, however, for the ‘olelo-impared.

I co-wrote all but one Hawaiian song and was assistant producer on Kenneth Makuakāne’s recent solo debut, Makuakane. You can hear cuts of those songs on Kenneth’s website. I was honored to have a Christmas song I wrote, “Ke Aloha Kalikimaka” recorded by Keali‘i Reichel on his Christmas release, Maluhia. My composition “Nā Hōkū Pio ‘Ole” was selected as the theme song for the 30th anniversary Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. Some of my compositions have been recorded by Kainani Kahaunaele, the De Lima ‘Ohana, Mailani Makainai, The Pandanus Club, Steven Espaniola, Patrick Landeza, Willie K. and Amy Hānaiali‘i, and O’Brian Eselu. My wife and I returned to Maui in August 2012, when I accepted a new position in at UH-Maui College. I spend about half of my time teaching classes in Hawaiian music, applied music and music theory, and the other half administering the Institute of Hawaiian Music.

I’ve produced five recordings by my Institute of Hawaiian Music students, two of which have won Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. Personally, I love to work the fringes of Hawaiian music by combining Hawaiian language lyrics with musical styles which are not often used to accompany Hawaiian music. You’ll hear some of the fruits of this work in the near future.

In May 2020, as the COVID pandemic had interrupted so many lives, I began to study te reo Māori (the Māori language), something that I had hoped to to but for various reasons did not start while we were living in Aotearoa. I’ll be detailing that journey on these pages, too.

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