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Alumnus Eddie Maiava shares his musical journey and how he returned to BYUH to give back to campus and community

Eddie Maiava smiling wearing a red and black tribal-designed button-up shirt with greenery behind him.
Eddie Maiava

Playing in Kahuku High School’s band sparked alumnus Eddie Maiava’s love for music and led him to BYU–Hawaii, he said. The Kahuku High School marching band used to practice on the BYUH campus, he said, and after practice one day, shortly before his high school graduation, a music professor invited him to join the University’s band class.

Maiava said Dr. Richard Ballou heard him playing his trumpet, waved him over and said, “I teach band here at BYU–Hawaii, and we would love to have you come play with us.” Now, over two decades later, Maiava said he gives back to BYUH by teaching a Polynesian music ensemble class. He also works in the Ho'okele Department as the manager of student recruitment and alumni relations.

Maiava shared his life story during a Facebook live Ho’okele Podcast event on Jan. 22, 2021, hosted on the Official BYU–Hawaii Alumni Association page where he was interviewed by Becky Sampson, the host of the show.

Golden opportunities

Maiava said he accepted Ballou’s invitation to join the band class. However, during the second week of his semester at BYUH, Maiava said Ballou asked him if he registered for the class because his name was not on the roll. He responded by saying, “What is that? You told me just to come over here to the Ballroom on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12.”

Maiava said he was so naïve at the time he didn’t realize he needed to register for the class. That day, Maiava said Ballou helped him register for classes at the administration office, located at the McKay complex.

Before Ballou left, he said to Maiava, “’Do you need money to pay for school?’” Maiava responded, “That would be nice!”

That day, he received a music scholarship. “So that’s how my college experience started,” he shared. He went on to earn a music degree.

Photo of the BYUH brass band with Maiava in it with all the students wearing white button-up shirts and dark purple/blue buttons with trees and a hut behind them.
Eddie Maiava in the BYU–Hawaii brass band

The guidance of the gospel

Originally from Tutuila, American Samoa, Maiava said he grew up in a village called Mesepa, where he was raised by his grandmother. In 1971, his family came to Hawaii for vacation and they ended up staying, he said.

As a young student, Maiava attended Laie Elementary School, Hau‘ula Elementary School and Kahuku High & Intermediate School.

Although he grew up Catholic, Maiava said he started noticing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because “there were too many Mormons around.” Maiava said the Church members not only shared the gospel with him, but they also set good examples.

“Through my friends and association [with them], that’s how I got to learn more about the gospel. And then missionaries knocked on our door,” Maiava shared. He said he slowly gained a testimony of the restored gospel.

“Without the gospel, it would be hard to have some sense of direction. I think that’s the pivotal point for me, is having the gospel to guide me, which allowed me to not only join the Church, but to go on a mission and come back home and finish school,” he said.

Supporting family and finishing school

photo of Eddie Maiava in the BYUH jazz band with all the students standing under a tree wearing white button-up shirts, black bowties, black suspenders and black suit pants holding instruments.
Eddie Maiava in the BYUH jazz band

Maiava said by doing school part time and working full time to help support his family, obtaining his degree took longer than usual. Maiava began his studies at BYUH in 1979 and graduated in 1993. He said he took a lot of music classes and thus spent a lot of time in the band room.

Maiava met his wife, Jenni Maiava, at BYUH. Upon meeting, Maiava said she asked him how long he’d been in school and asked to look at his transcript. “You could be a doctor with all these credits you got,” she had joked.

Maiava said he finished his degree because of his wife’s encouragement and the motivation from his music professors.

Sampson said she has never heard of a dating situation that asks for the school transcript. “Usually they’re asking for other things,” she commented. It is a sweet thing, she said, that Maiava was able to find Jenni Maiava who encouraged him with his schooling.

“It doesn’t really necessary matter how long it takes us to do certain things. It just matters that we’ve finished,” Sampson said.

Appreciating culture

Old photo of dancers wearing bright yellow, red and white outfits on a yellow ground with waterfalls behind them at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
The Matinee Show at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Maiava said he was a musician and dancer at the Polynesian Cultural Center for about 13 years. He was in 11th grade at Kahuku High & Intermediate School when he joined the PCC Matinee Show playing the trumpet for the brass band, he said.

“I felt so guilty because it was such a piece of cake work. Here I am getting paid for doing something that is so easy to me, to play my trumpet and to participate in the [matinee] show,” he shared.

During his time at the Center, Maiava performed in the matinee show, the brass band, canoe show and night show. Working at the PCC helped him not only appreciate his culture, he said, but also the other Polynesian cultures. He developed skills as a musician, he added.

Screenshot of a video call of Eddie Maiava and Becky Sampson on the with the slide with the words "PCC Matinee Show" and a photo of nine people, one shirtless and a lei around his neck, the others in white outfits or green.
Screenshot of the event featuring Eddie Maiava with the slide about him playing in the Matinee Show at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The Ho'okele Department 

The BYUH website says “Ho’okele” is the Hawaiian word for navigate, and the department serves current students and alumni, as well as prospective students on their path to BYUH.

One part of the Ho'okele Department includes the Student Recruitment & Alumni Relations. Student recruitment, Maiava said, connects with the university's target areas in the Pacific and Asia as well as Hawaii and the U.S. mainland, Maiava said.

They set up their visits to these countries with the help of the church's welfare self-reliance managers, he shared. “When we go out there, we visit with the students that are interested to come to BYU–Hawaii through the Church.

“The stakes, the wards, the Church high school in the Pacific and our alumni help us prepare these visits to meet with potential students that might be interested in coming to BYU–Hawaii,” he added.

Alumni relations connects with BYUH alumni in the same areas, he said. They prepare students to go back to their countries and help graduates to network with alumni in order to find employment or prepare to go to graduate school, he continued.

Giving back 

Before returning to Laie, Maiava worked in the U.S. mainland for about 20 years at various universities, including Eastern Arizona College, Linfield College and The Evergreen State College and as a human resources administrator for Washington state’s government.

Maiava said, “My work in the mainland has prepared me to come home and be able to serve in my current role at BYU–Hawaii.”

He said he came home to Hawaii to give back to the University and the community he was raised in. He also wanted to show his gratitude for the PCC and the Church.

Screenshot of the BYUH video event of two screens one with the words underneath "Becky Sampson, host" and the other with "Ediie Maiava, 1979-1993" with other words "Ho'okele Department, recruitment, admissions, new student experience, financial aid, career services, alumni relations and international student services."
Screenshot of the BYU–Hawaii event featuring Eddie Maiava.

Lei Cummings, relationship manager at the Ho’okele Department, said, “Eddie moved from Washington state back to Hawaii with his family a few years ago. He told me he had been telling his wife he wanted to move back home and work at BYUH.”

She continued, “He started working in the Admissions Office a few years ago and when his office and mine, [Alumni & Career Services], merged in 2019, we started working together to help manage the Student Recruitment & Alumni Relations areas in Ho’okele. We also help with other functions in admissions, career and new student orientation.”

Cummings shared, “I have known Eddie since high school at Kahuku. We were in marching band together. Eddie played the trumpet, and I played clarinet. We also played together on the BYUH tennis team. Now, we are working in the Ho’okele Department.”

Maiava also teaches the Polynesian Music Ensemble class. “My degree was in music, so I feel like it’s a way for me to share my talents that Heavenly Father blessed me with to teach others about Polynesian music and basic Polynesian history through music,” Maiava shared.

Cummings said, “You can hear his ukulele playing in the office when he teaches his class. We have also used some of his original compositions for our alumni reunion and podcast events.”

Looking back at working as a manager for student recruitment and his past work experiences on the U.S. mainland, Maiava said helping others has been the greatest blessing.

“There might be a student out there like me who doesn’t know how to do any of that process. I’m [here] to help them and guide them through the admissions process, invite them to come to school and take a look at our campus … and so forth,” he said.

“It’s not about me. It’s about the opportunities that were given to me,” Maiava said. Looking back on how he joined the Church and his involvement in various music positions, he said opportunities were always in front of him and he is thankful for the many people who encourage him to take advantage of those opportunities.