COURTESY OF HAWAII MUSICWORKS
Rocking on with lots of attitude, clockwise from front left, Elias English (drummer); Mari Arakawa (vocals and keyboard), Kira Santos (guitar and vocals) and Ezri Santos (keyboard and vocals). CLICK FOR LARGE
Aiming to rock
Are you ready to be rocked by a group of local kids?
Thanks to the popularity of the Jack Black movie "School of Rock," children across the nation are picking up musical instruments and striking the rock 'n' roll pose with pride.
One such band from Hawaii -- EMKE -- will be featured at this weekend's National Association of Music Merchants conference at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California.
EMKE is an acronym, the first letters of band members' names -- Elias English (10-year-old drummer), Mari Arakawa (10, vocals and keyboard) and Kira (10, guitar and vocals) and Ezri Santos (7, keyboard and vocals). Elias' brother Elijah and Kaci Onouye round out the band on bass.
"This band is just one of many here at the studio," said Mark David Santos, Hawaii MusicWorks director and Kira and Ezri's father. "There are little over 630 students currently enrolled, ranging from ages 4 to adult. Classes are for piano, guitar, bass, drums and voice."
Santos said EMKE came to the attention of the Anaheim music conference via "Save the Music," a nationwide program cosponsored with VH1 and, in particular, "a video I sent to Yamaha of the band doing the Hilary Duff song 'Rock This World.' "
Most rock-school bands invited to perform are older, Santos said, with members ages 16 to 21. "NAMM is the professional music industry show of the year, with stars in attendance such as Carlos Santana, Gene Simmons, Kevin Bacon, Keanu Reeves and Kelly Clarkson."
In fact, Kira sent a letter to Simmons --formerly of KISS, now host of the VHI show "Gene Simmons' Rock School" -- pleading with him to catch their Saturday-afternoon performance. EMKE will play a full-hour set, which will include "Shout It Out Loud," a hit from Simmons' KISS repertoire.
Santos said that the whole "rock school" concept "is a nickname for a type of lesson curriculum offered across the nation. ... Our school program also includes jazz, alternative and R&B. The idea is to make learning music theory appealing by learning how to perform like their idols."
The kids' band has one public appearance scheduled when they get back, performing on the KITV morning news show on Jan. 26. Santos said they'll be on hiatus afterward until April, as they add five more songs to their 25-song repertoire, plus daughter Kira will be going to get some needed dental work.