Big Island Music Academy students, local musicians play together for school’s benefit concert

  • The Big Island Music Academy. (Daryl Salmo/Courtesy Photo)
  • Big Island Music Academy student Leo Rogers rocks out on the bass. The academy is holding "Malama the Music" on Sunday, a benefit concert to help fund the school's scholarships. (Big Island Music Academy/Courtesy Photo)
  • Big Island Music Academy student Kai Gilliland sings with teacher Binti Bailey. (Big Island Music Academy/Courtesy Photo)

KAILUA-KONA — Six years ago, Andrea Lindborg and Luke Clebsch had an idea that they hoped would take young musicians on the Big Island to new heights.

The two were teaching together in a music program at Innovations Public Charter School in Kailua-Kona, which serves students up to the eighth grade. Because of the school’s age limit, they found a lack of programs for young adults on the island to continue their music education after the middle school stage.


Their solution was to create Big Island Music Academy.

“It all sort of happened out of a natural need, and that’s how we’ve been rolling this entire time,” Lindborg said. “We’re just trying to provide a service that the kids seem to need, and there’s so many talented kids. There’s something very special about this island, I think, and the kind of magic that can happen when kids have the opportunity to perform.”

Big Island Music Academy is now 60 students strong. Young musicians from around the island gather in the Lutheran Church-Holy Trinity on Lako Street to learn their choice of brass, woodwind, string or percussion instruments, as well as the option of working on their vocals.

At the Holualoa Inn from 2-5 p.m. Sunday, the students will show off what they’ve learned this spring semester at “Malama the Music,” a benefit concert to raise funds for the academy’s scholarship program.

Clebsch said their goal is to raise $10,000.

“My hope is that the community would rally around these kids,” Clebsch said. “And anybody who comes to the concert and sees the reality of what these kids are doing would be so inspired to want to keep that space alive.”

The concert is just one of many the school holds every year to give the children experience performing for an audience.

“It’s scary to perform in front of people, and performance is a big part of our approach,” Clebsch said. “This year, we’ve already done two. There’s a lot of opportunities for them to perform. Sometimes you feel afraid to do something, but you do it anyway and that’s such a great life skill.”

Special guest musicians Bill Noble and LT Smooth will also perform.

“We really want them to feel what it’s like when a band sounds great together, that high level of musicianship,” Clebsch said. “We really have always tried to include adult musicians with them. We’ve also found that encourages rapid growth.”

The students of Big Island Music Academy are surrounded by experienced musicians every day through their teachers. Along with Lindborg and Clebsch, local musicians Binti Bailey and Brett Zimmerman round out the school’s instructors.

Tuition is $65 a month, and Clebsch said one-third of the students are attending on scholarship.

Music is the main focus of the school, but Clebsch said he sees other skills develop in the children due to their attendance.

“We’ve seen so many times, over and over again, a kid comes into the program super shy and awkward and after being in the program for a few months, just become so comfortable and so confident in expressing themselves in a group,” Clebsch said.


“They become like a family,” Lindborg added. “They become so close and we really try to keep it noncompetitive with each other, so that it’s really about what everyone brings together. We just see the kids growing in that awareness of their role, the individual’s role within a community, a greater picture.”

Info: Tickets to “Malama the Music” on Sunday at Holualoa Inn are $20 for adults and $10 for children. Tickets can be purchased at

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