Michael-Thomas Foumai

Portrait of Michael-Thomas Foumai
Based in Honolulu, HI
Website: www.michaelfoumai.com

“The communicative power of music to tell stories and paint sonic landscapes within the imagination is something I embrace in all my music inspired by my Hawaiʻi home. Music has the force to move and now more than ever, it is vital for me to create and to use music to tell the stories of our time, of what was, is and may come in the ever changing landscape of our blue island earth.”


Michael-Thomas Foumai is a composer of contemporary concert music, arranger, educator and currently serves on faculty at the University of Hawai‘i West O’ahu. Recent work includes music focused on cultural themes and the environment including E Mālama I Ke Kai (to care and protect the ocean) for Music in the American Wild, Printing Kapa for Lucia Lin and Charles Overton, Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds (Movement 6 – Mālama) and the Hōkūleʻa choral symphony Raise Hawaiki, a multi-organization collaboration that brought together the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra, Oʻahu Chorale Society, Choirs from the University of Hawaiʻi System, Hawaiʻi Youth Opera Chorus, University of Hawaiʻi Foundation and the Polynesian Voyaging Society to the concert stage.

His original works have been performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and by the orchestras of Minnesota, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Cabrillo and Portland among others. As an arranger, he has composed for guest artists, including Jake Shimabukuro, Raiatea Helm and the Hawaii Youth Symphony, Amy Hānaiali’i and the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra and Iwalani Kahalewai and the Royal Hawaiian Band.

His honors include a Fromm Foundation grant from Harvard University for Manookian Murals, commissioned by the Dolce Suono Ensemble, the Music Teachers National Association Distinguished Composer of the Year Award, Jacob Druckman Prize from the Aspen Music Festival, three BMI composer awards and the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award.

Work Samples

“Mālama” from Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds (2018), Orchestra. Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, Jeffrey Boeckman (conductor); artworks submitted by young students (grades 4-12) of Hawai‘i for the “Mālama Hawaiian Forest Birds!” Art contest for Spring 2018.

“Mālama (to care for) is the final movement of Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds and is a call to action. Bringing together art drawn by children across the state of Hawaiʻi and inspired by what we can do to protect our birds, a sweeping melody voices the message of our young artists and gives rise to a strong and repeating fanfare; a mantra that we must care and protect our very special bird friends.”

Printing Kapa (2021), Violin and Harp. Lucia Lin (violin) and Charles Overton (Harp).

Printing Kapa belongs to a category of work inspired by indigenous knowledge connecting with cultural and environmental themes. The work is inspired by the patterns found on Kapa cloth. Kapa (bark cloth) is a native Hawaiian fabric made from the bark of trees and combines linear elements that cross and converge to form geometric patterns of triangles, chevrons and diagonals. The form of the work unfolds to illustrate nature’s symbolic relationship over a life time. Kapa is a cloth that swaddles from birth, clothes during life, and accompanies during death, it embodies a profound relationship of nature’s caregiving properties with humanity.”

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