My favorite memories begin on the lanai of my grandfather’s home in Kailua Kona Hawai’i. I remember my grandfather’s warm tenor voice singing the Hawaiian children’s song,“Mahalo no ka’ana mele o’u nei, thank you for sharing my song”, with the scent of the Kalua pig slowly roasting in the sand beneath layers of banana leaves wafting through the air. With my ten-dollar uke in hand, I would eagerly accompany him with the quiet strumming of the few chords I knew. Those were visceral and even thrilling experiences of sharing music with others. Moments like these set me on the path of becoming a musical artist and solidified my desire to perform for others.
Beyond my grandfather’s lanai, at Bates college in Portland, Maine, I sang and performed solos with the Bates choir while studying and writing about the social, economic and political challenges that the people of Polynesia have endured. Music and performance remain the most powerful means of shaping and preserving Hawaiian identity—a fact common to all cultures throughout the world. As I sang works by Mozart and Debussy for the first time, I was compelled to learn more about this rich musical tradition.
After graduating from Bates, I was invited to continue my musical education at the University of Minnesota as a Carolyn Bailey Argento fellow, where I became immersed in the world of opera—its history, its performance, and its future. The experience gave me the opportunity to perform works from the across world.
My journey has since taken me to Italy, Poland, Austria, Switzerland and now Germany, where under the tutelage of Brain Jauhianinen and Jari Hämäläinen, I continue to integrate my love of cultural and the musical traditions that define us into my work.
I have since learned that whether singing on my grandfather’s lanai or performing in Berlin as Hannah in Laura Kiminsky’s As One, opera has given rise to the passions that define who I am.