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Famed Madrigals Will Pay Tribute To ‘Mr. H’

On March 31, a group a Shigeru Hotoke’s former music students will gather at Kailua High School to remember him with a special plaque, and to rename the music building in his honor.

Hotoke may not be known to Kailua’s new generations of children, but in his four decades of teaching band and choir in Hawaii’s public schools, the man touched the lives of more than 12,000 students, and his renowned select choir, the Kailua Madrigals, toured the world – and Waikiki – as the state’s Ambassadors of Aloha.

“Mr. H gave so much of his life to all these kids,” said former student Dew Babyack, “this is the smallest thing we can do for him.” According to reports from the alumni of the KHS choir and the Madrigals, the man had a way of instilling pride with humility, order, discipline and respect. Along the way he saved many “from taking a destructive path in life.”

The renaming process took about three years, said Babyack, who is a Kailua Madrigal from 1973. But with all the parts in place, all the DOE permits OK’d, and all the funds easily raised, the dedication ceremony is on schedule for 10 a.m. March 31 in the chorus room of the music building. Everyone is welcome, but RSVPs are requested by email for an attendance count. Contact dewbabyack@hawaii.rr.com.

A native of Kauai, Hotoke met his wife Grace in music classes at the University of Hawaii. He began teaching music at Kailua High in 1954 when it had no music program. His class of 16 soon swelled to 100, and at its peak in the ’60s, the KHS choir had more than 500 voices. He retired in 1986 and died Feb. 20, 2010.

Babyack noted that KHS once again has no choir program. “There’s no actual singing, except for in the Hawaiian language program,” she said, “but the principal wants to start it again.”