Megan Conley loves the ocean as much as she loves music. So it’s entirely fitting that the harpist is inspired to use music to affect global change.
“Like many people in Hawaii, I feel a powerful connection to the ocean,” says Conley. “Hearing how there’ll be more plastic than fish in the water by 2050 and how forever chemicals contaminate drinking water made me want to take action.”
Harpist Megan Conley, founder of Ocean Music Action. Photo courtesy Nicole Izak
Conley created the nonprofit organization, Ocean Music Action, to use the power of music to raise awareness about ocean conservation. She organizes concerts featuring ocean-inspired music that’s followed by a clean-up project.
Earlier this year, she organized a concert with local and international musicians in Orvis Auditorium at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A couple days after the concert, the musicians and some audience members volunteered for a limu huki (literally “pull”) with Malama Maunalua, a nonprofit environmental organization that works to rid invasive seaweed and pollution from Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai.
“It was a great opportunity for us to connect with the local community, learn about Maunalua Bay, and give back to this beautiful place,” she says.
Megan and Shawn Conley are a musical couple with a cause. Photo courtesy Kelli Hull
Conley, who’s originally from Texas, fell in love with the ocean after frequent trips to the Islands with her husband, Honolulu bassist Shawn Conley. They’d often hike to the top of Diamond Head, where they’d be in awe of the different shades of blue in the water and coral reef. The couple moved to Hawaii at the start of the pandemic to raise their 5-year-old son, who they named Osian (pronounced "ocean").
“We’re so grateful to live in Hawaii,” she says. “Volunteering is a way for us to show our gratitude and respect for the land and the people.”
Conley and her son, Osian, with volunteers of Malama Maunalua's limu huki. Photo courtesy Megan Conley
Ocean Music Action has sponsored beach cleanups on the Mainland and participated in conservation programs at the Waikiki Aquarium, Bishop Museum, and Kapiolani Park. Conley plans to organize more events locally and nationally.
“Whether cleaning up the bay in Maunalua or a bayou in Houston, I hope to continue the spirit of malama aina and use art as a way for us as global citizens to give back,” she says.
Photos courtesy Megan Conley