‘How far I’ll go:’ Summer Art & Song Fest inspires

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WAIMEA — Like Moana, the fearless seafaring heroine of Disney’s recent movie, students of Waimea Elementary School may have wondered how far they could go — perhaps as voyagers, athletes, artists or musicians.

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WAIMEA — Like Moana, the fearless seafaring heroine of Disney’s recent movie, students of Waimea Elementary School may have wondered how far they could go — perhaps as voyagers, athletes, artists or musicians.

This Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. their Summer Art & Song Fest will spotlight 60 students in the Mana Christian Ohana Kahilu Town Hall, sharing what they’ve learned and how far they’ve come the last three weeks in the school’s summer program. The free presentation is open to the public, and will include an art exhibit, sports awards and a choral concert showcasing music from favorite Disney films.

Accompanying the choir is Waimea Elementary School’s own Kuhao Case, the inspiring keyboard artist who taught himself to play, in spite of his inability to see. Also featured is operatic soprano Chelsea Chaves, who will perform “How Far I’ll Go,” from Disney’s “Moana.”

“I chose Disney music because the kids can connect with it,” said music teacher Ryan Tan. “A lot of them come in with very little experience with music, and I wanted to start that love for music in them.”

He said that at first many of the students were shy and reluctant to perform, but the three-week Summer Arts Program has boosted their confidence.

“Now the kids love it,” Tanner remarked. “If I ask for soloists, half the class raises their hands. They are actually learning a lot while having fun.”

Students are divided into groups by grade level, and participate in three different areas during the program: music, physical education and art.

“All kids do all three tracks,” said art teacher Geoffrey Mundon. “Especially for little kids, you have to get them on their feet and focused in different ways. If you’ve ever sung in a choir you know how profound and unique that is. It’s the same in sports. They’re working together, on the same team and working their bodies.”

After lunch, students might be tired, more relaxed and ready to enjoy drawing, painting, or making things from paper and recycled materials.

“It’s important to round out your whole being,” said Mundon.

He uses games like Pictionary and creative exercises like create-your-own-colors to engage students.

“Kids are often terrified to make a mark. They’re afraid of not being perfect,” he said.

“I like to wake them up, get them excited and then start a project. My philosophy is that a lot of kids learn visually, some learn aurally, some learn kinesthetically. Music lets them learn all three ways,” Tan said. “Music helps the brain work a little bit harder. It actually makes them more effective in other subjects.”

Gail Gimbel, the program’s founder and organizer, agrees.

“It’s a fun program, and they are all learning. I’m so proud of them,” she said. “I want every child, no matter what their background, to have the best opportunity to work with the best teachers.”

Case has a similar message for young people.

“I want to say to them ‘when you want to get into music, or whatever you want to do, first off dream big. Then, learn. Find what gifts you have, and then check into different schools, maybe college, learn more, pursue more,’” he said.

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Case, now working on his second album, graduated from Kohala High School, hosts a radio show on North Kohala’s KNKR 96.1 and will celebrate his 21st birthday the day after the concert. He accompanies the choir and Chelsea Chaves, in addition to performing a variety of music at the beginning and end of the show. Case is an inspiring example of how far a young musician can go.

The Summer Arts Program at Waimea Elementary School is supported by the Nielan Foundation.

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