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Students performed a special three minute snippet from the Hawaiian language opera Hāʻupu for the national broadcast.

Hawaiian opera on airwaves across the nation

Jan. 13, 2017

Contributed by Shaundor Chillingworth

Kamehameha Schools delivers a world-class, Hawaiian culture-based education.  Opportunities like participating in outreach efforts and performing for a national audience offer haumāna valuable learning experiences and a chance to showcase their culture to the world.

Kamehameha Schools Hawai'i Hōʻike A Ha'i students will appear on an upcoming episode of From the Top, the hit NPR radio program featuring America’s best young classical musicians and hosted by acclaimed pianist Christopher O’Riley. The show is airing nationally this week and will air on Hawaii Public Radio KANO 91.1 FM on January 14 at 10 a.m.

The show can also be downloaded as a podcast on The episode was taped before a live audience at William Charles Lunalilo Center on November 30. The KS Hawaiʻi students performed a special selection from their Hawaiian language opera “Hāʻupu”.

Senior Daylan Kalaʻi and junior Leiana Clark represented the group in an interview before the performance and spoke of the process of how Hāʻupu came to be, how it was performed as an all-school production as part of their annual Hōʻike and the group’s travel to Edinburgh, Scotland to share the opera at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

“We were able to take our story thousands of miles away from home and show our culture as it truly is,” said Clark. “It was so amazing to see that our show, our culture meant so much to people who have never seen it in their lives.”

Both Kalaʻi and Clark shared their connections to their Hawaiian culture and how that is perpetuated at KSH as well as in their lives beyond campus.

The experience as a whole was an amazing one for the performers giving an insight into the standards of a nationally produced show, while also injecting a bit Hawaiian culture to make that show stand out beyond what From the Top would normally produce.

“The level of the production was very high as was the performance standards, but our kids fit in just perfectly and it gave a nice sense of depth to the whole program,” said musical director Herb Mahelona.

“I was trying to explain to the students that this is the show that hundreds of performing arts students aspire to be on but never make the cut – and here we are on the show at our own campus!  So awesome.”  

Also on the broadcast: 12-year-old pianist Jairus Joseph-Sioeli Rhoades from Mililani, Hawai’i, performs Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto, after Verdi’s opera, by Franz Liszt and Étude in A-flat major, Op. 25, No. 1, by Frédéric Chopin; 17-year-old cellist William Suh from Honolulu, Hawai’i, performs III. Allegro passionato from Johannes Brahms’ Cello Sonata no. 2, Op. 99; 16-year-old clarinetist Jack Li from Vancouver, Canada, performs III. Rondo: Allegro from Carl Maria von Weber’s Grand Duo concertant; and 17-year-old violinist Maria Sanderson of Brown County, Indiana, performs “Summerland” by William Grant Still.

In addition to the performances, From the Top and NPR spent time with KS Hawaiʻi students as part of the important outreach mission of NPR. Four of the performing students participated in an Arts Leadership Orientation with Michael Dahlberg, NPR director of National Outreach Programs and other performers from the show. The performers also joined outreach staff in hosting a session for KS Hawaiʻi elementary students on music and the power of the arts.

For the past decade, From the Top has been the preeminent showcase for America’s best young musicians. Through award-winning NPR and PBS programs, online media, a national tour of live events, and education programs, From the Top shares the stories and performances of pre-collegiate musicians with millions each week. Visit for more information

See more photos from the performance and outreach activities on the Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi campus Facebook page.

SP2020 is a five-year strategic plan that will guide Kamehameha Schools from 2015 to 2020. The plan marks a starting point toward KS’ Vision 2040, which envisions success for all Native Hawaiian learners.

Activities like these support Goal 1 and Goal 3 of SP2020 which call for KS to deliver world-class, culture-based education and to cultivate Native Hawaiian identity within its learners. It also supports Action 1 of Kamehameha’s Ten Actions for fiscal year 2016-17, advancing as a world-class KS school system.

While on campus, From the Top performers and outreach staff conducted a music education session with KSH kula haʻahaʻa haumāna.

Senior Daylan Kalaʻi and junior Leiana Clark are interviewed by From the Top host Christopher O’Riley.

Four KSH performers also attended an arts leadership workshop with Michael Dahlberg, NPR director of National Outreach Programs and other performers from the show.

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