Four Honolulu Community College Music and Entertainment Learning Experience (MELE) students put their education to work against an extremely tight timeframe to restore, remix, remaster and create the music for the film Transcend: The Jon Mozo Story.

“Watching our names appear in the credits at the end of the movie was a surreal moment,” says MELE audio engineering student Jerry Clark. “I’m living my dream.”

The movie that was six years in the making, premiered during the 2016 Hawaiʻi International Film Festival (HIFF) in November. The story is centered around North Shore resident, surf photographer and artist Jon Mozo who died at Back Door, Pipeline on February 9, 2005 at the age of 33 doing what he loved to do—photographing waves. He left behind his wife Nikki and their four children. For Nikki who co-produced the film, this was not just a story about Jon as a photographer, but Jon as a person and as a family man.

Transcend: The Jon Mozo Story movie trailer


In the weeks leading up to the film festival MELE Director John Vierra received a call from a friend working on the project asking for help with sound restoration and music creation. Not being one to turn down a tremendous learning opportunity Vierra enlisted the help of MELE audio engineering instructor Jon Ross to work on this project with a select group of students.

Third semester MELE student Michelle Bailey said, “We all sat down with Nikki in a pre-production meeting to better understand the scope of the work we needed to do and just to understand the essence of the story. I was head engineer for four voiceover segments with Nikki. It was a learning process to get the right feel, and sound of what we were trying to capture.”

“Through Jon’s story I learned that no matter how insignificant you feel you can still touch people in ways you can’t understand. Your everyday interactions impact the way you influence the world,” Bailey shares.

Creating the music

For Clark and fellow audio engineering student Garrett Macaw, they were tasked with writing the music for the entire film in one week’s time. Due to this herculean task they were close to completing the request, but ended up short due to the time constraints. However, about 70 percent of the music they composed was used in the film. Clark, a classically trained pianist partnered with Macaw who is a self-taught musician creating computer generated sounds. Opposites attract and their music makes the story come to life.

“It was a mentally and emotionally grueling process. We were literally locked up in the MELE studios for days creating music to fit all the moods of the visual story. Jon was a fellow creator and artist. I felt connected to him in that same respect of my passion for music and balancing the technical skills to create something magical. It’s a balance of the two,” Macaw explains.

Assistant engineer and third semester audio engineering student Janica Marie Pascua is no stranger to HIFF. The Waimea High School graduate served as the technical director for two documentaries one of which was shown at HIFF’s teen film competition.

“I’m a romantic sucker. When we were recording Nikki in the MELE studios it was important for her to talk about Jon’s obsession with the ocean almost like the ocean was the other woman. But Nikki wanted to make sure that it didn’t come across as being jealous, but rather embracing his love for the ocean and how that transcended to his love for his family, friends, and humanity,” reflects Pascua.

Stepping up to the challenge

For MELE instructor Ross it was a great test to see how his students stepped up to the challenge and be a part of something special. “I’m very proud of these students for taking on aspects of the project and tackling them in such a short timeframe. It was great to edit and mix the audio post production for the project and I’m glad to see the students gain the experience. We may be revisiting the project to touch things up.”

The MELE program serves the community as the premier, comprehensive program that fosters and promotes music industry professionals from technical production, songwriting to artist management and music publishing.

Bailey, Clark, Macaw and Pascua are on target to graduate in May 2017. Each of them plan on pursuing careers in the music industry.