Not many students at ʻIolani are familiar with the elusive Mr. Alexander Peña, but on the rare occasion they catches a glimpse of him, they’ll would be graced by the sight of his luscious hair—a cross between Russell Brand and Jesus. Alongside Mrs. Joan Werhman and Mrs. Katherine Hafner, Mr. Peña is working his first year at ʻIolani as one of the three orchestra directors.
At seven years old, Mr. Peña began his music career with the piano. Three years later, he found his true passion, the viola, and has stuck with it ever since. While studying for his graduate degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, Mr. Peña conducted multiple orchestras at Harley School and took part in the New York Philharmonic.
Coincidentally, Dr. Timothy Cottrell worked at the same school as Mr. Peña before he came to ʻIolani. A couple years after Mr. Peña received his graduate degree, Dr. Cottrell reached out to Mr. Peña to apply for a job opening as one of ʻIolani’s orchestra directors.
“There’s also a strong Eastman alumni presence at ʻIolani,” joked Mr. Peña, referring to Mrs. Wehrman and Mrs. Hafner who also graduated from Eastman.
Peña means “pain” in Spanish, and true to his name, he keeps himself very busy by working painfully hard. At about the same time he was offered a job at ʻIolani, Mr. Peña was accepted into the Global Leaders Program, an executive graduate certificate with social entrepreneurship, cultural agency, teaching artistry, civic leadership and organizational management. This prestigious program is led by the League of American Orchestras in partnership with ten elite schools, including Harvard, Duke, John Hopkins, McGill, Georgetown and Bard.
In January, Mr. Peña will travel to Chile where he will participate in orchestral field work for ten days. During spring break in March, he will accompany ʻIolani’s Orchestra 5 to Alberta, Canada to take part in the Canada International String Gala. In April, he will travel to Tlaxcala, Mexico, to work with a symphony, work on professional development, teach master classes and lectures. In June, he will go to Chautauqua, NY, to conduct and teach seminars. Finally, Mr. Peña will spend the rest of his summer relaxing at in Brainerd, Minnesota.
As of now, Mr. Peña conducts multiple string orchestras at ʻIolani. In the future, he’d like to collaborate with ʻIolani’s Performing Arts Department and continue Mrs. Hafner’s work in participating in international orchestra competitions.
“I’d like to potentially take an orchestra to a Latin American country,” said Mr. Peña because of his strong Latin roots. Mr. Peña also wants the orchestra to play a piece composed by Tonia Ko '06, an ʻIolani alumna with whom he studied at Eastman.
Even though Mr. Alexander Peña has been at ʻIolani for less than two months, his insane work ethic and musical prowess will undoubtedly take ʻIolani’s orchestras to uncharted territory.