Dancing the hula at Carnegie Hall

Ihilani Kamaka '15Ihilani Kamaka ’15 of Kaneohe, Hawaii, had the opportunity of a lifetime this summer when her father was invited to play at Carnegie Hall and she danced the hula along with him.

Kamaka’s father was invited to play Hawaiian music with his band, Hookena, on May 30. After finishing her last final at Linfield, Kamaka flew to New York City to meet him. The production was a three-hour show and Kamaka closed the night by performing the dance she taught for the Linfield College Hawaiian Club 41st Annual Lu’au.

Kamaka described the experience as nerve-racking and exciting.

“I opened a door and was instantly on stage, with no curtains and nowhere to hide,” she said. “I was nervous, but once I saw my family in the audience and my father on stage playing, I was no longer afraid. Instead I was excited and ready to dance.”

Ukulele building has been in Kamaka’s family since 1916. Her great-grandfather originally built ukuleles by hand in his garage and sold them for $5. Decades later, the family business has grown and now has ties to Japan and Thailand. They have even designed a ukulele exclusively for Jake Shimabukuro, a famous Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso. Learn more about the Kamaka family business in this story on CBS Sunday Morning.

Kamaka, an education major, plans to continue studies at Linfield and hopes to continue performing, but says that no venue can ever compare to the magnitude and beauty of Carnegie Hall.

“A 19-year-old girl dancing at Carnegie is a big deal,” Kamaka said. “I didn’t fully understand what it meant until after I had performed there. People have practiced all their lives to play at Carnegie and still haven’t. I am honored and amazed to have been able to do this.”


By Alyssa Townsend ’15


Carnegie Hall