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Setting the Stage initiative to raise funds to construct new CMU theatre and education facilities.

Grammy award-winning recording artist Kalani Pe’a returned to his alma mater in the fall of 2022 to host a reception to support the announcement of Colorado Mesa University’s community-wide effort to build a new theatre on campus. Pe’a is a three-time Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter focusing on contemporary Hawaiian music. He's one of a select few recording artists to have received three Grammy awards.

While on campus, Pe’a worked with CMU students, faculty, staff and community groups to create a music video telling his story and sharing his passion for the performing arts. On Saturday, April 8, 2023, Pe’a and CMU launched the video in Honolulu, Hawaii at the Mid-Pacific Institute surrounded by future Mavericks who attended the Choose CMU event that day.

“We wanted to launch the video here while in Hawaii so that we can share Kalani’s story with future students to give them a real-world example of what education can do for people generally, and what the performing arts did for Kalani in terms of pursuing his dreams,” said Whitney Bonner, a CMU staff member who introduced the video.

The video takes place in both Hawaii and western Colorado, including scenes that reveal the sandstone landscapes of western Colorado and the natural environment of the islands. The lyrics tell Kalani’s story and are meant to help bring visibility to higher education.

In addition to launching the video, the university has dedicated a new recording studio on campus in honor of Pe’a’s legacy as a Maverick. CMU President John Marshall believes the naming is a fitting way to honor Pe’a.

“The CMU Board of Trustees approved this very special project, and when the recording studio is complete in the future, the new facility will celebrate in perpetuity the contributions Kalani makes to CMU and the performing arts,” said Marshall.

Pe’a is working with the university to raise awareness about the importance of the arts for enhancing the student experience and enriching community and culture.

“I am proud to have graduated from CMU and am pleased that the CMU Board of Trustees has chosen to honor me in this way,” said Pe’a. “My hope is the recording studio can be a place that welcomes all aspiring artists to explore their dreams and love of music. The friends and mentors I met at CMU created a space for my art and opened pathways for me that led to the Grammys and beyond. I am excited to play a role in supporting a new state-of-the-art theatre to provide similar opportunities for students in the future.”

To support the initiative, Pe’a is collaborating with CMU students, faculty and community members to produce a song and other materials that will inspire supporters for the new theatre while at the same time allowing his music platform to show how the performing arts make a difference in the lives of aspiring artists, as well as their fans.

The partnership between CMU and Pe’a is one part of the Setting the Stage campaign that will work to identify community members and organizations who value the arts, and who share CMU’s vision for a theatre that will support the entire region.

CMU Foundation CEO Robin Brown is leading CMU’s efforts to secure funds for the new university theatre and said the response to Kalani’s involvement has been well received by donors.

“While the video Kalani made to support us was officially launched today in Hawaii, we have been sharing the video with all our project supporters as we meet with them, and the response has been very exciting,” said Brown. “They believe Kalani’s story is a perfect example of why the arts matter and why investing in CMU’s new theatre is a worthy endeavor.”

 In addition to having earned a degree in mass communication from CMU, Pe’a also overcame adversity earlier in life having been the recipient of speech therapy. His courage to pursue a calling towards music and performance resulted in a career where he travels the world performing Hawaiian music — his art.

“I had a dream to live out my music as a child, and that has more than come true,” said Pe’a. “Part of bringing that dream to reality was my time as a student at CMU. This partnership is a chance for me to give back to the campus community that helped me go from the stage at CMU, to the stage of the Grammys. I am forever grateful for both experiences.”

Charles Latshaw is the Music Director for the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra and expressed enthusiasm about the future theatre at CMU as well as the collaboration with Pe’a.

“CMU’s efforts will result in another venue that will support our musicians while the partnership with Pe’a is a rare opportunity for them to collaborate with an artist of this caliber that cares about expanding the arts in this community,” said Latshaw.

Symphony violinist Alisha Bean is the Associate Concert Master and was a featured artist in the video. Bean is seen playing the violin in the Grand Valley’s majestic sandstone backdrop with Pe’a in the foreground.

Harley Galbasini is the Director of the Grand Valley Children’s Choir, a local organization that has been a cornerstone of the local music community for more than 25 years. The choir is a complementary group of the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra and in addition to Galbasini, was co-directed by Ben McLam.

“As Director of the Grand Valley Children’s’ Choir and a CMU alumnus, I’m honored to help the university and Kalani Pe’a communicate the importance of music, singing and the arts to our community,” said Galbasini. “The Grand Valley Children’s Choir is an auditioned group of third through seventh graders from all over the valley with a mission to spread the joy and love of music, performing with the Colorado Choral Director’s Select Choir, CMU’s Vocal Arts Ensemble and many more. I would like to thank CMU for providing this opportunity to share music with each other.” 

Local community and business leaders Doug and Jamee Simons are working to co-chair the fundraising initiative and welcomed Pe’a to campus during a reception where other contributors could meet Kalani and learn about his life story and work. Doug is a longtime local musician and supporter of CMU who also makes an appearance in the video at the invitation of Pe’a.

“I was on campus for another reason, and Kalani asked if I wanted to join him for the video shoot,” said Simons. “It’s not every day you get to collaborate with a Grammy award-winning artist and it was a lot of fun to join him and the kids on stage for a good cause. As a musician I am excited to think about the grand opening of CMU’s new facility and Mr. Pe’a performing on its stage.”

CMU supporters and community members who would like to contribute to the future of music, art and the humanities in western Colorado should visit the Setting the Stage website to learn more about how to be a part of the project.

  • Kalani Pe'a with alumnus Doug Simons

    Kalani Pe'a with alumnus Doug Simons.

  • Faculty Jazz Quartet

    Faculty Jazz Quartet.