Hawaii County Band

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The Hawaiʻi County Band is a municipal band founded in 1883. It is the second oldest professional musical organization in the State of Hawaii. Only the Royal Hawaiian Band, founded in 1836, is older.

The band is composed of approximately 40 part-time musicians and a full-time director and is part of the Parks and Recreation Department of the County of Hawaiʻi. The band performs for free at ceremonies, festivals, parades, dedications and many other public events throughout Hawaiʻi Island (variously nicknamed "The Orchid Island," "The Volcano Island, and "The Big Island"). The band performs a monthly concert at Moʻoheau Park in downtown Hilo.


The Hawaiʻi County Band was founded in 1883 by two brothers from Portugal, Joaquin and Jules Carvalho. They emigrated from the Azores and made a living as barbers in Hilo, on the island of Hawaiʻi. The brothers would close their barbershop, perform at scheduled concerts and go back to cutting hair afterwards. Joaquin was the conductor and Jules played the cornet.[1]

The band survived the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893 and the period of the Republic of Hawaii (1894–1898). It was absorbed by the newly created County of Hawaiʻi during the territorial period (1898–1959). It was known as the Hilo Band (or the Hilo Portuguese Band). After the creation of the county system in the Territory of Hawaii in 1900 it officially became the Hawaiʻi County Band in 1905.[2][3]

After Joaquin died in 1924, the band had several directors. Urban Carvalho, son of co-founder Jules Carvalho,led the band from 1943 to 1963.[4] Frank Vierra went on to become the director of the Royal Hawaiian Band.


There have been 12 directors of the band:

  1. Joaquin Carvalho (1883–1924)
  2. Paul Tallett (1924–1925)
  3. Frank Vierra (1925–1933)
  4. Frank Wrigley (1933–1938)
  5. Gabriel Wela (1938–1943)
  6. Urban Carvalho (1943–1963)
  7. Andres Baclig (1963–1974)
  8. Armando Mendoza (1974-1981 / 1983-1984)
  9. John Hursey (1981–1983)
  10. David Lorch (1984–1993)
  11. Wayne Kawakami (1993–2001)
  12. Paul Arceo (2001–present)


Unlike the Royal Hawaiian Band, the Hawaiʻi County Band is not a full-time band. Except for the band director, the musicians in the Hawaiʻi County band are employed by County of Hawaiʻi Department of Parks and Recreation on a part-time basis. Some members have been with the band for many years. One exceptional trombonist in his eighties has been with the band continuously for over 60 years.

The uniform for the Hawaiʻi County Band is a red and white aloha shirt. Cross-striped fabric patterns, similar to those of Scottish kilts, were imported from England in the late 1800s as uniforms for the workers on the sugar plantations in Hawaii and are still popular apparel among the locals in Hawaii.

Monthly concerts are at the Moʻoheau Park bandstand in downtown Hilo, usually on the second Saturday of each month at noon. The Moʻoheau Park Bandstand is a historic structure dating back to 1904, though some accounts claim the bandstand is even older, making it the performing home of the band for at least 106 years. It is also the center for cultural events, political rallies and other downtown Hilo events.

Current Events[edit]

In February 2010, the Hawaiʻi County Mayor Billy Kenoi announced he was eliminating the Hawaiʻi County Band to help balance the county budget. If the proposed budget is accepted by the Hawaii County Council, it will effectively put an end to the Hawaiʻi County Band as an organization.[5]

As of March 2010, a decision on the band’s budget has not been made. A final decision by the County Council and Mayor was expected by mid-May 2010.


  1. ^ Carvalho, Joaquin Jr. (May 29–June 4, 1977), Carvalho Brothers Founded in 1883 What is Now Known As the County Band, Hawaii Tribune-Herald Orchid Isle (Hilo) pp. 2,6
  2. ^ (September 12, 1905), The Hilo Band Becomes A County Band, Hilo Tribune-Herald (now the Hawaii Tribune-Herald) p. 1
  3. ^ History of Band in Hawaii County Romantic Story, Hilo Tribune-Herald (now the Hawaii Tribune-Herald), July 30, 1926, pp. 1, 8
  4. ^ Rodney Wong (July 2004). "The Hawaii County Band: 121 Years Old and Still Going Strong". Northwest Hawai`i Times. 
  5. ^ Burnett, John (February 27, 2010), Hard times strike a sour note, Hawaii Tribune-Herald (Hilo), pp. 1,5

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