A celebration of Hawaiian music — and a grand piano


Teresa Bright and Ka‘ala Carmack perform during piano celebration.

“An Evening of Hawaiian Jazz” last month drew more than 100 people to celebrate the arrival of WCC’s first Steinway grand piano.

Artists Teresa Bright, William Klingelhoffer, Ka‘ala Carmack and Aaron Salā performed at the new Hale A‘o – ‘Ōpio Kākela building to raise funds to offset the cost of the Steinway.

The piano will be used for classes in Hawaiian music, chorus and voice, as well as community performances.

A few years back when faculty and staff were discussing how to renovate Hale A‘o, former music and choral instructor Salā requested a choral room that could fit 100 students.

When Salā was asked how he would get 100 students in the choir here at WCC, he said, “If you build it, they will come.”

Normally split into two sections, the choral room transforms into a performance space when the partitions are removed and the side wall is opened up.

“It’s a beautiful room,” said renowned singer Bright. “I hope you folks have more concerts here.”

“(College administrators) committed to the building, and look at what Ka‘ala is realizing,” said Salā.

“I asked for high ceilings, I asked for sexy lighting, I asked for state-of-the-art acoustics… the one thing I didn’t get was the piano, and so Ka‘ala now has the piano.”

Carmack, WCC music instructor and director of the Hawaii Music Institute, had been trying to get a piano since January 2013.

Then he received an e-mail during finals week last semester, saying that a Steinway was for sale for $10,000 — considered a bargain price.

“It just so happened (WCC) was having a dedication of this new carved sign for Hawaiian Studies that day,” said Carmack.

“As I’m walking, here comes Doug Dykstra, the chancellor. (As) we’re walking there together to this event, I said, ‘Hey, how you doing, Doug… you got $10,000? There’s a Steinway grand piano for sale for $10,000.’”

Dykstra and Carmack both agreed that it was an incredible deal, and money was made available so that the piano could be purchased.

As of Jan. 20, $4,889 of the $7,500 that needed to be paid back has been received.

“Having a new piano doesn’t mean anything more than we got a piano,” said Carmack.

“On the other hand, it’s what you can do with that piano. It’s a tool… It’s my kuleana to use it to get students to accept (Hawaiian music) as their kuleana too, whether they’re Hawaiian or not.”

by Eric Levine, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter