COURTESY PURPLE MAGIC MUSIC PRODUCTIONS
Jomel Sumira, a University of Texas student who hopes to become a pediatrician, is a part-time musician who will be performing at various locations on Oahu while she is home for the summer.
Songs of summer
Jomel Sumira uses her breaks from college to nurture her passion for music
EVERY SCHOOL has one -- a student set apart from the pack by an ability to handle academics with determination, and social aspects with grace. Moanalua High School 2005 graduate Jomel Sumira would fall into such a category.
It would be safe to call her a go-to girl: voted class president in her freshman and sophomore years, an Outstanding Students of America finalist (2004), a talent winner for Hawaii's Junior Miss scholarship competition (2004), Menehune of the Year (2005), and there's more. Those outside the circle of high school might remember Sumira from Roy Sakuma's girl group Joy, a steady presence during her Moanalua life.
Sumira, 19, now attends the University of Texas in Austin, with plans to become a pediatrician. But she's chosen an interesting path to her goal: She is a part-time musician during her summer at home, spending mornings at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, and afternoons and weekends giving concerts at malls and fairs in support of her debut CD, "One Magic Moment."
All in a day's work, shrugged Sumira.
"I just want a chance to do it all," she said, stealing a glance at a folded piece of paper that lists past accomplishments.
She wins praise from the owner of Roy Sakuma's Ukulele Studio himself. "She's really very talented," said Sakuma. "Jomel's got a great attitude and is always smiling."
SUMIRA has wrapped up her freshman year in Texas and is writing music for her second solo CD, though few of her Austin friends know of her moonlighting as a musician. Sumira's hit the occasional open mike in Austin but has saved real performing for summertime.
She is marketing her music the old-fashioned way, with the help of two Moanalua High School teachers. In her two summers since graduation, she has sung at about 50 free concerts, with many of her fans being children, the same audience she hopes to serve as a doctor one day. Every penny she earns is being pocketed for her education -- so far about $6,000 -- but the greater reward is the chance to sing in front of crowds once again.
"All this is going to my dream," she said. "It's hard to believe it's only been a year. There's been a million performances here and there. I've accomplished one of my goals."
BY AGE 8, Sumira was enrolled in voice and ukulele lessons; by age 12 it was piano and violin lessons; and then there was the group work with Joy, the Moanalua High School orchestra program and all the stages in between. She sang as a soloist at New York's Carnegie Hall when Moanalua's Symphony Orchestra performed on that renowned stage last year.
But it was high school biology teacher Duane Suyama who suggested she continue her interest in music as a solo musician. Lead singer and guitarist for the band Brentwood, Suyama once considered being a musician full time before turning his interest to teaching.
Suyama produced "One Magic Moment" and contributed an estimated $26,000 for recording, marketing and other additional fees.
Suyama learned of Sumira's vocal prowess through her classmates.
"I was told, 'You have to hear her sing,'" said Suyama with a shake of his head. "I have to say, she's really good. She's got a very natural style."
The duo worked together on "One Magic Moment" during Sumira's senior year, releasing the album last May.
Suyama compares his former student to Michelle Branch, whom Sumira covers on her CD. Sumira also penned a handful of songs, such as "If Only," written in the eighth grade, and the title track, a tune she wrote for her sophomore banquet.
"I want her to have as much creative input as possible. Whatever profit there is" -- Suyama shrugged -- "it's just for fun. I started like Jomel, entering contests."
"Fun" includes carting cases of CDs to local record stores. Suyama gets help with marketing from his girlfriend, Candace Chun, a health occupation teacher, also at Moanalua High School.
SUMIRA HAS no plans to make music her permanent career. "I'm going to be the singing pediatrician. I just want to share with the community and talk to kids on their level and show them they can do whatever their hearts desire."
Suyama feel strongly that Sumira has a solid future and will likely give back to the community once she graduates from medical school. "There's all the reasons for helping her," said Suyama. "She donates a lot of her time to charity. It's a joy to help her."
COURTESY PURPLE MAGIC MUSIC PRODUCTIONS
Jomel Sumira's summer performance schedule:
Saturday: 11:30-11:50 a.m., Meadow Gold Healthy Baby Contest, Ala Moana CenterStage; 4 to 5 p.m., Taste of Honolulu, Honolulu Civic Center Grounds
July 1: 11:30-11:50 a.m., Meadow Gold Healthy Baby Contest, Pearlridge Center Uptown
July 2: 1 to 1:45 p.m., Ward Warehouse
July 3: 6 to 6:45 p.m., Aloha Tower Marketplace
July 8: Noon to 1 p.m., Windward Mall Centerstage
July 15: 1:45 p.m. Sassy and G Magazine's Back-to-School event, Pearlridge Center Uptown
July 16: Noon to 1 p.m., Pearlridge Uptown
July 16: 1:45 p.m., Sassy and G Magazine's Back-to-School event, Macy's Ala Moana
July 16: 3 p.m., Sunday Music Jam, Ward Warehouse
July 19: 5:45 to 6 p.m., Honolulu Zoo's "Wildest Show in Town"
July 22: 4 to 4:45 p.m., Ala Moana CenterStage
July 23: 5 to 5:45 p.m., Hawaii State Farm Fair, Kapolei
Aug. 6: 1 to 1:45 p.m., Na Mele Nei concert series, Ward Warehouse
Aug., 12: Noon to 1 p.m., Kahala Mall Centerstage
Aug. 19: Noon to 12:45 p.m. Ala Moana Centerstage
Aug. 20: 1 to 3 p.m., Sunday Music Jam, Ward Warehouse
Also: Sumira is available for private functions, school assemblies and charitable events. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-1355.
"One Magic Moment" sells for $12 to $15 and is available at Borders Ward Centre, Planet Fun at Kunia Shopping Center, Native Books Na Mea Hawaii at Ward Warehouse, Sam Goody locations, Harry's Music Store in Kaimuki, Jelly's in Pearl Kai Shopping Center, Hungry Ear Records & Tapes at 418 Kuulei Road and through www.jomelsumira.com