2019 Preis Honoree - Aaron Mahi


On Saturday, February 1st, 2020 at Halekulani Aaron Mahi received the Alfred Preis Honor for his lifetime support of music and community building in Hawaii. 

Conductor, performer, composer, arranger, educator, pastor, and chef, Aaron Mahi is a renaissance man. Born in Kalihi and educated at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama, he received a Bachelors in Mus. Ed. from the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford in Connecticut and attended the Herbert Bloomsted Institute of Conducting at Loma Linda University in California.


As a musician, Aaron worked as a bass player and played Hawaiian music with George Kuo, Martin Pahinui and Eddie Kamae. He is also a slack key guitar performer.


He has held several conducting positions such as conductor of the Hawaii Ecumenical and the Kamehameha Alumni Glee Club. He was bandmaster and conductor of the Royal Hawaiian band from 1981 – 2005. During his tenure, the Royal Hawaiian Band toured Europe and entertained 17,000 people in 19 concerts in the course of 21 days. Aaron conducted the Royal Hawaiian Band in its first concert at Carnegie Hall, and at the Peace Park in Hiroshima. In 1999 the Royal Hawaiian Band was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame. Mahi was honored in 2003 with the German Medal of Merit from the Republic of Germany, for his work in fostering German culture outside of Germany.He received the Golden Ring of Honor from the Association of German Musicians and the Order of Merit of Germany.


Aaron has also conducted the Honolulu Symphony, and debuted them at the Hollywood Bowl with slack-key artists Dennis Kamakahi, George Kuo, and David Kamakahi.


Aaron has been a community leader in his role as pastor at the Community of Christ Church in Makiki. He’s a cultural specialist who works with nonprofit organizations such as the Mālama ʻĀina Foundation and the Partners in Development Foundation to teach people about Hawaiian traditions. Aaron served on both the Oʻahu Burial Council, and the State Land Use Commission.


Aaron’s newest venture as conductor is with Sovereign Strings, an ensemble that has revived nineteenth-century popular Hawaiian music. The ensemble is recontextualizing the sound of Leleiohoku, Likelike, Kalākaua, and Liliʻuokalani through their arrangements and voicing.



2018 Preis Honoree - Barbara Barnard Smith


Hawai‘i Arts Alliance held the 38th annual Alfred Preis celebration on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at Halekulani. Barbara Barnard Smith received the Alfred Preis Honor for her lifetime support of the arts, and community building in Hawaii. 


Barbara came to Hawai‘i in 1949 to help develop the UH Music Department and to teach piano performance and music theory, after earning her Master of Arts in Music Education at the Eastman School of Music. She was drawn to the vibrancy of the Asian and Oceanic cultural traditions of her musically talented students, and decided the University must also offer courses about the musical achievements of her students’ own cultural inheritances.


When the East-West Center was forming in the 1960s to bring together people of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific to communicate, research, and study, Barbara recommended that EWC could learn from visiting scholars, performances, and exhibitions of world music, dance, theater, and visual arts.


These seeds blossomed into the University of Hawai’i Ethnomusicology Master’s and PhD degree programs that emphasize learning from "living cultures" in Hawai’i and the surrounding Asia Pacific region. Students began to gain deeper insights by performing in ethnic ensembles led by masterful artists and teachers from around the world.


Barbara Smith retired from the University in 1982, but remains active as an arts supporter, advocate and contributor to the field of ethnomusicology. Her influence and accomplishments extend to community institutions such as the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Bishop Museum, and the Lili’uokalani Trust

A commemorative hardcover book of the event may be purchased here.
















2017 Preis Honoree - Marilyn Cristofori


Hawai‘i Arts Alliance's 37th annual Alfred Preis celebration, was held on Saturday, February 3, 2018 at Halekulani. Marilyn Cristofori, former Chief Executive Officer of Hawai‘i Arts Alliance, received the Alfred Preis Honor for her lifetime support of the arts, and community building in Hawaii. 


For 24 years, Marilyn Cristofori led Hawai’i Arts Alliance, the statewide private non-profit that builds creativity through advocacy, community and education for all the arts. During her leadership from 1994 to 2017, the Alliance grew from a small office to a champion for the arts through advocacy and support for education and the community with a budget of well over $1 million. Under her watch, state legislation enacted and empowered ARTS FIRST Partners, comprised of the Alliance, Hawai’i Department of Education, Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, UH College of Arts and Humanities, UH College of Education and Hawai’i Association for Independent Schools. Arts are first because they will last a lifetime.


Marilyn steered the Alliance to support the formation of The ARTS at Marks Garage and to become the fiscal agent for POW! WOW! Hawai‘i. In 2015, in partnership with the HIDOE, the Alliance started Turnaround Arts Hawai‘i, a program that transforms underserved schools through student-centered whole-school arts integration. Marilyn’s work with Americans for the Arts includes the national Arts and Economic Prosperity study that documents the impact of the arts on the economy. 







Marilyn on "Long Story Short"

first aired February 6, 2018

Thanks to PBS Hawaii for the clip




















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