Dr Ueta Mata’utia Pene Solomona passed on in January this year but his legacy will live on as Samoa’s greatest composer and musician.
His trailblazing music career included being a composer, music educator, arranger, performer, keyboardist, and choir maestro and conductor.
The first Samoan to be awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the United States, he studied music at the Fredonia Campus, New York State University, and later became the first recipient of the Officer of the Order of Samoa for achievements in music.
He received music tutelage at a very young age on the piano and also played in brass bands and conducted choir rehearsals in the company of his father, the late Mata’utia Pene Solomona.
Upon completing his studies, Dr. Ueta returned to Samoa and worked extensively to establish a choral culture of great uniqueness. But academia beckoned and he became a senior lecturer in music and expressive arts at the University of the South Pacific (U.S.P.) for 30 years.
In 2005 he retired and returned to Samoa to fulfill a life-long dream of establishing the National Orchestra of Samoa, which he subsequently led for a few years.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi commended Dr. Ueta’s work at his funeral early this year, saying it will be remembered forever.
“It’s been years since the Government has been using Ueta in conducting and composing hymns in so many of the government occasions.
“He joined and contributed to the best of his abilities in whatever way he could. Today we salute his service in all these years, and may you rest in peace Ueta,” he said.
Susau Solomona described Dr. Ueta as a loving person.
“Ueta loved and adored not only his children, but his family as well.”
His niece Seutatia Solomona gave the eulogy on behalf of his family.
“Ueta enjoys giving challenges to people, especially when it comes to his field,” she said.
She said Ueta’s music speaks for him.
“As Rosa mentioned last night that we were very fortunate that we didn’t have to pay any tuition fees in order to learn music,” Seutatia said.
“When we grew up, we were surrounded with musical instruments that allowed us to receive music education from both Ueta and his father.
“All we had to do was to go back to university just to get our pieces of paper to make it official.”
She said there was an organ at the Anglican Church, where Ueta and his younger brother Ioselani, were assigned by their father to play and look after.
“This church used to have an organ that when it’s played, it chimes through the bell tower and I can hear it every Sunday morning.
“He continued on serving the church until he was granted with a scholarship to pursue his studies in New York.”
Seutatia said his love of classical music influenced so many people who have known him.
“Ueta is very committed to his students as well, whether its piano or any other instrument, he makes sure that his students play with confidence.
“And that is why he held recitals at every semester break for his students in order to perform with confidence in front of an audience.
A former student of Dr Ueta, Gloriana Roebeck, said he was a truly remarkable man.
“Now this last trait might not seem that interesting except for this — his gift was music. And I thought it apt that he and Beethoven would share a trait because that should’ve limited their reach, but didn’t. Ueta Solomona not only created music, he brought out the music in those he taught.
“His heart was always in his craft and therefore, always for his student, no matter how incapable they felt they were.
“Some of my most vivid memories revolve around Ueta Solomona making me sing pieces of music I could never dream of doing justice to.
“But such was his faith in my ability, he didn’t care if I did badly, he’d just make me sing it again and again and again until I sang it right — and he was always, always patient.
“Not many of us acknowledge we stand on the shoulders of giants and even fewer truly recognise we are in the presence of greatness, as was the case here.
“His defining trait - his humility - belied his brilliance and I think due to this, it often felt like no one really appreciated the genius of this man,” said Roebeck.