• Koko Ohira: the Healing Power of Music (Ke Alakai)

    Koko Ohira learned of the healing power of music when she performed for earthquake victims in Japan
    Called a true musician by her friends, Koko Ohira, a senior from Miyagi, Japan majoring in music performance, has used her saxophone skills to help victims of Japan’s natural disasters.
    After Japan’s devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Ohira played for victims to spread hope through music. “I went to play music for the victims to give enjoyment. And then I played this song – it’s called ‘Homeland.’ It’s a Japanese folk song. I felt that this song is what we remember about our homeland.”
    The song became so important to Ohira that she always plays the song to introduce herself and her homeland of Japan. “I was so shocked when I saw the destroyed things. Then I played music and then they cried because they remembered the way everything was before the earthquake and tsunami were happening. I remember thinking, ‘I have to keep playing for them and let them remember our home.’”
    While the victims of the earthquake had lost everything, Ohira saw how the power of music brought some hope back to their lives. “I recognized how music gives power to live and how music heals people,” she said.
    After that experience, Ohira set off for college. She said she never planned to come to BYU-Hawaii, but she is glad she stayed because it introduced her to jazz music. “Here, my saxophone teacher said that my classical skill was good, but if I could learn jazz, my skill would become better.”
    Ohira has learned the new style and is now part of the Salsa Orchestra and Jazz combos at BYUH among other groups. “Jazz music is kind of different [from classical] because I can create my own music or my own melody or a cool solo and I just noticed, ‘Oh this is so good. I can create anything!’ I love it.”
    Jazz not only helped Ohira’s musical skill, but also her confidence. “When I started the salsa band, I didn’t have any confidence to play saxophone. But Dr. Duerden always told me, ‘You can do this.’ He always gives me a challenge or good advice, so my confidence became stronger. Before I was so nervous to perform in front of people and now I just really, really enjoy my performance.”
    Ohira’s musical confidence doesn’t always extend to her personal life. “I don’t feel nervous when I perform music, but I’m so shy to talk to people. I don’t know why I’m so shy. I can perform for everyone and I’m okay, but I really can’t talk to people. It’s really funny.”
    Last semester, Ohira was chosen to perform a concerto with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. She said, “It was such a great opportunity. I had played music in Japan, but I was never a soloist. I couldn’t imagine that I would be a soloist.”
    Kevin Peterson, Ohira’s bandmate and a senior from Laie studying music, said he was proud of Ohira’s solo performance. “Obviously she was fantastic, and it’s crazy because musicians in general are a dedicated group of people. They spend a lot of time practicing, but she practiced that piece forever. I can’t even count the number of times I went into the band room and she was practicing it. It paid off because when she played it, it was perfect.”
    Peterson described what made her performance so perfect. “She played all the right notes, but more than that, it was just so gorgeous. The way she moves and all the emotion she puts into it, it’s very clear that she’s not just a player: She’s a real musician.”
    Ohira said she hopes to move on to graduate school, ideally at BYU in Provo. “After I graduate I want to be a teacher and a performer. I don’t want to stop playing, but I love teaching too. I taught some lessons in Japan for a high school student before, and it got me thinking that I could be a teacher.”
    Peterson gave her a vote of confidence. “I think Koko could go on to do whatever she wants to,” he said. “She’s a phenomenal musician.”
    Uploaded April 8, 2016
    Photo by Monique Saenz

  • 21 Questions for Shelby "Jo" Huey 

      1. What’s your preferred name? Jo
      2. Where do you call home? Linn Creek, Missouri
      3. How long have you been at BYUH? One year (three semesters)
      4. Did you serve an LDS mission? I am currently preparing to serve in the Singapore Mission, reporting December 7 (2016) to the Provo MTC.
      5. What’s your major? What instrument(s) do you play? My major is General Music with an emphasis in piano, which is my main instrument. I also sing Alto II and played cello and flute in high school ensembles.
      6. Why did you decide to study music at BYUH?  I decided to attend BYUH because of my desire to experience diverse cultures and gain a wider world perspective. Originally I wasn't sure I wanted to study music, but I attended a piano camp the summer before coming to the university which allowed me to see music as more than a hobby and inspired in me the desire to study more intensely.
      7. What do you do when you’re not studying or practicing? I found wonderful friends at BYUH with whom I love going to the beach, hiking, playing card games, and cooking. They were my Hawaiian family, and we even had FHE and Sunday dinners together.
      8. Name one thing that’s unique about you. I have been teaching piano since I was twelve.
      9. Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing at BYUH. A big first for me at BYUH was learning an entire sonata. I had learned individual movements from sonatas before, but hadn't committed and completed one.
      10. Who are your musical heroes? There are many brilliant, awe-inspiring musicians throughout history to name, but my personal musical hero has to be my mother. She succeeded in making music a beautiful part of our family life, more than just another extracurricular activity, and to her I am forever grateful.
      11. Name three songs on your playlist. "Mama," My Chemical Romance; "Prelude in G#," Rhoda Vaun Young; "At the End of the Day," Les Miserables.
      12. Name a favorite food you’ve discovered at BYUH. Açai bowls
      13. In which ensembles have you participated? Concert Choir
      14. How long do you practice every day?  2-3 hours
      15. Do you surf? I have only surfed a few times, and I'm definitely a beginner.
      16. Do you have a job? If so, what is it? I work as a stagehand at the McKay Auditorium.
      17. What inspires you? I am most inspired by my peers. I have had the opportunity to be surrounded by many incredibly talented people of my own age, and they help me realize that if they can do it, so can I.
      18. What are the best things about studying music at BYUH? I love the amount of personal attention you can get from the instructors due to the small class sizes and the way that the professors care about their students. It is also incredibly fun to work alongside the other musicians at BYUH.
      19. What surprised you about BYUH? I was surprised at how diverse the interests of my fellow students were. I knew that there would be people studying all sorts of things, but the interesting bit was how much those interests crossed over into subjects that weren't a person's specific major. I could have fascinating conversations about nearly any topic with someone who's major also had nothing to do with the discussion.
      20. What are your plans after graduating? I just completed my associate's degree and will be serving a mission, leaving next month. After my mission I plan to finish my bachelor's degree and then I hope to start my own piano studio and teach.
      21. What advice would you give to entering freshman music majors at BYUH? One of the most important things is to organize your time well. Make yourself a practice and study schedule, and then stick to it. But also plan in time for fun and relaxation. There is plenty of time to have a well balanced life as long as you look ahead to what you'll need to have done. 

      Date: 11/16/2016 

  • Josh Wallace: A Day in the Life (Ke Alakai)

    Josh Wallace, a music major from California who graduated this Fall Semester, was the best triple guitar steel drummer BYU–Hawaii has had in 30 years, according to Dr. Darren Duerden, professor of music and a percussionist. Wallace said performing is what he loves to do. "You're excited and you're nervously anticipating what's going to happen," he said. 

    By Stephanie Soto (Ke Alakai November 2016)
    Photo: Josh Wallace plays the triple guitar steel drums in a performance with Shaka Steel. Photo by Yukimi Kishi


  •  Get to know Wealthia Apao in twenty-one questions

        1. What’s your preferred name? Wealthia
        2. Where do you call home? Philippines
        3. How long have you been at BYUH? Three and a half years (recently graduated)
        4. Did you serve an LDS mission? Not yet
        5. What’s your major? What instrument(s) do you play? General Music. I play piano, violin, and guitar
        6. Why did you decide to study music at BYUH? Ever since I was a kid, I have had this urge to know more about music. I heard Elder Dallin H. Oaks (he presided over the church's area in the Philippines) mention something about BYU-Hawaii and IWORK Scholarship in one of our Stake Conferences (my dad was the Stake President at that time). I was inspired and determined to try to go to BYUH and pursue my dreams.
        7. What do you do when you’re not studying or practicing? I engage in extracurricular activities. I love hiphop dancing. I am a member of BYUH's hiphop dance group since I came here. I also go out with my friends and explore Hawaii. I love hiking, visiting different tourist attractions here in Oahu, and eating out with friends.
        8. Name one thing that’s unique about you. My name. It starts with Wealth. My grandparents and parents wanted me to become successful in life and and be rich someday so I can help the needy ones.
        9. Name one thing you’re proud of accomplishing at BYUH. Finishing my studies while working 19 hours (25-40 hrs during break). I cannot believe (until now) that I was able to do it.
        10. Who are your musical heroes? Beethoven, Chopin, Grieg
        11. Name three songs on your playlist. 1) Bach: Air on a G String 2) Satie: Gymnopedies 3) Chopin: Nocturne op. 72 no. 1
        12. Name a favorite food you’ve discovered at BYUH. Spam Musubi - a food that's quick to grab and eat before class starts again. Thanks to The Seasider (BYUH Campus Cafe) for selling spam musubis! hahaha
        13. In which ensembles have you participated? University Chorale. Shaka Steel
        14. How long do you practice every day? At least 2 hours if I can. 
        15. Do you surf? No. I am not even a good swimmer.
        16. Do you have a job? If so, what is it? I don't have a job now but I used to work at PCC (Concessions Department) and BYUH (Purchasing Department). Both jobs were not related to my major but I am very grateful that I was able to learn new things aside from Music. I learned how to do Accounting stuff too!
        17. What inspires you? My parents. I want to make them proud of me and return/pay back everything that they have done for me.
        18. What are the best things about studying music at BYUH? You get to know different cultures and perspectives from students around the world. I also have great teachers who even studied in England etc.
        19. What surprised you about BYUH? Homework and tests. The load was very difficult for some of my classes which are not even major classes.
        20. What are your plans after graduating? LDS Mission
        21. What advice would you give to entering freshman music majors at BYUH? Use every resource that you can find. Library, books, computer labs, music practice rooms, or ask for your teachers' help. Do not hesitate to ask help from others. Enjoy the beautiful paradise of Hawaii. Enjoy while it lasts. Work out your purpose and know you're reason why are you here. Learn to adapt and make friends. 

     Date: 11/10/2016