And the Winner Is:………
Each year, thousands of competitors dream of winning a Grammy award for musical excellence. Of these thousands, fewer than a hundred are fortunate enough to actually win a Grammy thus it is so fascinating to be able to Profile a man who has won a Grammy TWO YEARS in a row! That he is Hawaiian enhances the honor that his efforts have bestowed upon all of us from Hawaii. Amazingly, most of us who live in the Pacific NW area have never met, and possibly not even heard of this gentleman in spite of the fact that he has lived and worked in our area for over thirty years! The reason for his anonymity is that our Profile Guest is one of those “man behind the scenes guys who makes things happen” but does not get the fame and headlines that the musicians (like Ledward Ka`apana, George and Keoki Kahumoku, Dennis Kamakahi,Daniel Ho, Ozzie Kotani,Cyril Pahanui, Richard Ho`opi`i, et al who all performed so brilliantly on the Grammy winning Hawaiian music CD’s) have gotten!
Meet Wayne Duck Sung Wong, who has won Grammy Awards as one of the Producers of the Grammy’s Best Hawaiian Music Albums for both 2006 (“Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar…Volume I”) and 2007 (“Legends of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar…Live from Maui”)! We all know that the musicians play their instruments and sing on the C.D.’s but what does a Producer do? Wayne says Producers are “enablers”, whether it’s scheduling recording sessions or soliciting funding or arranging the logistics and promotional activities, Producers develop the CD project concept and do all the things that “enable” projects to get done.
Wayne Wong is of Hawaiian/Chinese ethnicity. He was born and grew up in the Nuuanu Valley area of Honolulu and is a 1969 graduate of the Kamehameha Schools.
After high school, Wayne came up to Seattle where he graduated from the University of Washington in 1973. He earned an MBA from the University of Puget Sound in 1981.
More than a man of vision, Wayne Wong is a man with a mission and, more importantly, a man with a plan. He ultimately envisions a foundation whose purpose will be to promote, preserve and perpetuate the Arts of our Hawaiian culture! Unlike many others who have professed the same ambitions, Wayne Wong has already begun promoting/preserving and perpetuating one segment of Hawaiian culture….Kiho`alu music!
Kiho`alu is a very distinct and unique Hawaiian music style, an art form that has been a part of our Hawaiian culture since shortly after the Spanish cowboys introduced the guitar to Kahiko Hawaii! For years, Kiho`alu was a music style that very few outside of Hawaii heard or knew about. Kiho`alu was Hawaiian style music about families, for families, rarely played or heard outside of family luaus. Kiho’alu began to get public exposure in the 1950’s but the numbers of Kiho`alu musicians was very small and pay was very low.
In 2003, Wayne and his close friend/business partner Paul Konwiser sat down and discussed the sad state of Kiho`alu music and the fact that the art form was dying! They developed a business plan to preserve and promote Kiho`alu music, to make the world more aware of the Kiho`alu style and to gain more respect/better pay for the Kiho’alu artist. In late 2003, the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Kapalua on Maui agreed to a proposed plan from Wayne and his colleagues for hosting a weekly Kiho`alu concert to be held in their small, elegant 120 seat theater. The program has been very successful and offers Kiho`alu artists a fantastic and consistent venue, plus great pay, to play their beloved music. As to world awareness, Wayne states that the significant rise in sales of the Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar C.D. AFTER the Grammy award was made stands as a testament to the increased awareness! At one point, according to Billboard Magazine, that C.D. was ranked as the 15th best selling album of that week in the world! Wayne emphasizes that he is just one small part of the effort towards improving the environment for Kiho’alu artists and their music. He credits others, like his co-Producers Paul Konwiser, Daniel Ho and George Kahumoku and especially renowned artist GeorgeWinston, for being equally important influences in the Kiho`alu resurgence!
He is a highly regarded expert in the Informational Technology (I.T.) world and in his every day job travels continuously as a consultant in the litigation/electronic discovery arena. Wayne could reap a financial fortune just doing his I.T. work but his ultimate priority is to give back to his Hawaiian heritage.
The gentle, humble and soft spoken exterior demeanor of Wayne Wong belies the inner passion this man has for his Hawaiian heritage. Wayne’s wife Flora Sumiyoshi Wong (originally from Los Angeles, CA) is completing a Non-Profit Leadership degree as she plans to be involved in Wayne’s Non-Profit Foundation to Preserve Hawaiian Arts!
Mahalo Wayne Wong….you da Man!
The real winners of your efforts are the people who, like me, love the music of our culture so much. Because of you and your colleagues, millions throughout the world are becoming familiar with Hawaiian music, Kiho`alu style…and someday, millions more will benefit from the Foundation for the Preservation of Hawaiian Arts that you plan to establish!
Until next time, be kind to each other…..me ke Aloha pumehana…..Danny