CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Director Esther Macy was surrounded by The Koolauloa Children choir at her Laie home, top.
European tour inspires choral kids
An Oahu chorus is among the elite few invited to perform in July
MANY people dream of traveling abroad, saving their pennies toward a date in the far-off future; one 10-year-old is making it happen today.
For 2 1/2 years, Jasmine Lopez has walked, baked and sung her way to a 14-day trip to Europe this summer with the Koolauloa Children's Chorus.
The garage sale to raise money for the Koolauloa Children's Chorus will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 20 at Laie Elementary School. For information on joining the chorus, call Esther Macy, 293-1796.
Jasmine is among the youngest in the Concert Choir division, for singers ages 10 to 17. The 40-member group is one of eight in North America invited to the 2006 International Children's Choral Festival in England in July. The festival will include two concerts of mostly sacred and secular music and a week's worth of workshops in London and Canterbury. The kids and their 20 chaperones will start their trip with a four-day stay in France.
"I'm looking forward to traveling and having fun -- and singing," said Jasmine.
The enterprising Laie Elementary School student has raised more than $2,000 toward her individual travel account through fundraising projects ranging from walk-athons to a silent auction, from singing telegrams to selling plate lunches and smoothies. She "knows it's a sacrifice for her family," said her mother, Jocelyn, who has three other children, Carlos, 9, Jadelyn, 5, and Jacob, 2.
"My husband jokes that we've never been on vacation, let alone off the island."
For her efforts, Jasmine will see the Louvre Museum in Paris, tour the Tower of London and sing in such fabled British sites as St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Central Hall.
Esther Macy, director of the Concert Choir, said the children understand they can't just plan to show up and sing. "The kids learn that nothing is free in life. It's taught them to work."
THIS IS THE FIRST time a Hawaii choral group has been invited to the prestigious festival, which will involve 350 children and is in its 10th year. Leading the festival will be Henry Leck, director of the Indianapolis Children's Choir, and Michael Flood, director of the Canterbury Boys Choir.
Each child needs to raise about $3,600 to make the trip, and fundraisers have been held nearly every week to make this possible. Jasmine's dedication is no exception -- nearly all the children have put in their time and efforts.
"So far, during two years of fundraising, I've earned $1,000," said 11-year-old soprano Marisa Swiderski.
Without fundraising, "let's just say that I would be paying off credit card bills," said Amy Swiderski, Marisa's mother.
The group has one event left, a garage sale on May 20 to help cover the group's food bill, an estimated $300 per child.
Macy said the Koolauloa community has been generous with contributions, and the group received a $10,000 grant from the H.K. Castle Foundation, which will divided among 10 to 12 children with the greatest financial need. The Queen Liliuokalani Children's Center also awarded $1,800 for six singers of Hawaiian ancestry. The grants mean everyone in the choir who wishes to attend the festival will be able to go, Macy said.
The group, whose members mostly come from Laie, are from a mix of socioeconomic backgrounds. More than half of the group has met their financial goals, said Macy.
THE KOOLAULOA CHILDREN'S CHORUS is a labor of love for Macy. A registered nurse by day, she and the rest of the choir staff volunteer at night and on weekends with the music group. Macy, who hails from Laie, started the group five years ago as a way of giving back to the community. Since its inception, it has participated twice in the Pac Rim Choral festivals, working with Leck both times.
Megan Neal, who is busy with band practice at school and choir practice afterward, has earned expense money through recycling at 5 cents a can. The 15-year-old student president of the choir participated in a recent walk-athon, turning over money earned from that event to the choir's general tour account.
"I'm excited to be introduced to all the different cultures," she said.
Several parents have prepared the children with workshops on the places they will be visiting. Megan's mother and father, Dianna and Bill Neal, have taught the kids about customs of England and France.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Megan Neal, left, Marisa and Amy Swiderski, Jasmine and Jocelyn Lopez of the The Koolauloa Children choir in Laie have been putting much of their energy toward fundraising efforts to attend the Choral Festival in England.
The Hawaii group's travels might be documented in a film project by SKP films in Los Angeles. Producers Steven and Whitney Boe have asked to cover the tour, and will choose five or six of the eight North American choirs as their focus.
"The Hawaii group is one of our No. 1 choices," said Steven Boe, company president. "There's such a diverse group of people within the chorus."
For Jasmine, belonging to the chorus has meant payback beyond the chance for this special trip: She said it's been a delight to make audiences happy. "The best thing about being in the choir is putting smiles on people's faces and making their day," she said.
Macy said the group sees the trip as a chance to share Hawaii's heritage abroad. "Miracles happen, and we love being from this little rock where the spirit of aloha does prevail ... and we appreciate the opportunity to thank everyone."