Adrienne Lois Kaeppler has been a leading figure in the research, study,
and advocacy of the Pacific Island Region for at least four decades.
Ethnomusicologist, museum curator, anthropologist, and dance
ethnologist—her research is broad. President of the International
Council for Traditional Music-UNESCO, past President of the World Dance
Alliance-Americas, and senior curator for the Oceania collection at the
Smithsonian Institution—her leadership is also broad.
completed her doctoral study in anthropology at the University of
Hawai'i at Mānoa with the dissertation, The Structure of Tongan Dance
(1967). In 1967, she joined the Anthropology Department at the Bishop
At the same time she served as adjunct
ethnomusicology faculty for music and dance of Oceania at the University
of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. In 1980, she assumed her present position as
Curator for Oceania at the Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian
Institution, in Washington DC.
As dance ethnologist, Kaeppler
developed a system of dance analysis that identifies culturally
significant units of movement—the kineme; it has become a useful
methodological tool for comparative studies of movement and dance in
other parts of the world. As cultural anthropologist, she has explored
issues of aesthetic, examining intersense modalities relative to Tongan
aesthetics, identity, and cultural specificity. As wordsmith, she has
contributed the phrase "airport art” to current discussions of tourism,
popular culture, and property rights.
Although she has published
on various Pacific cultures (including Hawai‘i), her primary research
area is the Kingdom of Tonga. She enjoys close personal ties with its
artists and with its Royal Family. In 1997 she was awarded the Silver
Jubilee Anniversary Medal for Contributions to Tongan Culture by King
Taufa’ahau Toupou IV.
Arguing for the inseparability of sound and
movement or of music and dance in the Pacific, Kaeppler is an American
scholar who brings research expertise in both dance ethnology and
ethnomusicology to the region. In addition to serving the scholarly
community, she shares her research with the lay public. In 1983 she
produced Polynesian Dance, a manual featuring simplified notations of
both movement and music for eight dances. In 2004 Kaeppler co-edited
the anthology, Songs and Poems of Queen Salote [of Tonga], which has
been distributed to public schools throughout the Kingdom of Tonga.
Kaeppler also has a background in Asia, particularly in performance.
Japanese genres she performs include nagauta shamisen, gagaku (as shō
player and kagura dancer), and Nihon Buyo/Bando-ryü. She has also been
active in music and dance of Korea, e.g. ajeng and court dances, and of
the Philippines, e.g. rondalla and pangalay.
Kaeppler brings years of stewardship and a wealth of experience "back
home” to Hawai‘i. Welina e Adrienne—he noio 'a'e 'ale no ke kai 1oa
(Greetings to Adrienne, the tern that treads upon the waves of a distant
By Ricardo D. Trimillos, University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa