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

Tom Klobe

2021 Alfred Preis Honoree

Duane Preble

2020 Alfred Preis Honoree

Aaron Mahi

2019 Alfred Preis Honoree

Barbara Barnard Smith

2018 Alfred Preis Honoree

Marilyn Cristofori

2017 Alfred Preis Honoree

Michaael Titterton

2016 Alfred Preis Honoree

Sarah Richards

2015 Alfred Preis Honoree

Henry Akina

2014 Alfred Preis Honoree

Allyn Bromley

2013 Alfred Preis Honoree

Lawrence Tseu

2012 Alfred Preis Honoree

Jean E Rolles

2011 Alfred Preis Honoree

Marie McDonald*

2010 Alfred Preis Honoree

Sam* & Mary Cooke

2009 Alfred Preis Honoree

Preis Honorees

Edith* & Keiji Kawakami*

2008 Alfred Preis Honoree

Satoru Abe

2007 Alfred Preis Honoree

Nancy Bannick*

2006 Alfred Preis Honoree

Beebe Freitas*

2005 Alfred Preis Honoree

Clarence Lee*

2004 Alfred Preis Honoree

Robert R Midkiff*

2003 Alfred Preis Honoree

George Ellis

2002 Alfred Preis Honoree

Henry Miyamura

2001 Alfred Preis Honoree

Irmgard Aluli*

2000 Alfred Preis Honoree

Ronald E Bright*

1999 Alfred Preis Honoree

Agnes Kalaniho‘okaha Cope*

1998 Alfred Preis Honoree

Masaru "Pundy" Yokouchi*

1997 Alfred Preis Honoree

Nona Beamer*

1996 Alfred Preis Honoree

Wendell PK Silva

1995 Alfred Preis Honoree

Clint Marantz*

1994 Alfred Preis Honoree

Ray Okimoto

1993 Alfred Preis Honoree

Jane Campbell*

1992 Alfred Preis Honoree

Eric Chock

1991 Alfred Preis Honoree

William Cupit*

1990 Alfred Preis Honoree

Violet Scott

1989 Alfred Preis Honoree

John Kauffman

1988 Alfred Preis Honoree

Richard Nelson

1987 Alfred Preis Honoree

Paula Luv

1986 Alfred Preis Honoree

Naomi Morita

1985 Alfred Preis Honoree

Alfred Preis*

1984 Alfred Preis Honoree

Marian Kerr

1983 Alfred Preis Honoree

George Kon & Walter Dulaney*

1982 Alfred Preis Honoree

*  deceased

Each year, an individual is honored for their life-long commitment to the Arts and education in Hawaiʻi. The honor is named for Alfred Preis, founder of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (SFCA) and the Hawaiʻi Arts Alliance. Best known as the architect of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, Alfred Preis also authored the Art in Public Places legislation, designating 1% of state-building new construction and renovation funds for art.