Music To The Ears

Violinists Aowl Owen and Kimberly Hope will serenade crowds on Valentine’s Day, when they perform a slew of original songs at Kaua‘i Christian Fellowship.

Audiences are in for a treat on Valentine’s Day when violinists Aowl Owen (left) and Kimberly Hope put on their “Night Of Original Music” concert.

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Kimberly Hope recalls a home filled with music. For fun, her mother played the guitar and her father played bass. Then, Hope’s elementary school offered her the opportunity to learn the violin, viola or cello as part of the fifth-grade school orchestra.

Classical music might not be a passion for most 10-year-old girls, but for Hope, picking up her first violin changed her life.

“I fell in love with it and couldn’t put it down,” she recalls. “Playing the violin has been my biggest passion to this day, and I’m very excited to be making a career out of it.”

Yet, talent alone is only part of the equation. While still attending elementary school in Missouri, Hope would practice at least 45 minutes a day. Once her family moved to Kaua‘i in 2008 and she began attending Island School, her sessions extended to up to two hours per day of solo practice combined with another two to three hours a week in group rehearsals with Kaua‘i Community College’s orchestra. “Growing up, my parents never had to tell me to practice because I just loved learning and improving on violin,” Hope adds. “Violin is definitely not an easy instrument to learn, but it can be worth the hard work and practice if you have the passion and patience for it.”

Hope’s love of music flourished under the tutelage of her high school violin teacher, Helen Sina. Hope credits Sina with teaching her that music is more than just notes and rhythms. It is also about connecting with people and putting them in touch with their emotions.

“I believe music is a universal language that can transcend the barriers between people,” Hope says. “No matter where they come from or what their beliefs are, music can heal and bring people together from all over the world.”

Over the next 14 years, Hope would perform alongside Grammy-nominated band Ho‘okena, Broadway star Anne Runolfsson, and local slack key legends Dwight Kanae, Brother Noland and Ian O’Sullivan.

Her most memorable performance, however, happened in a small solitary room, far from any stage. The story begins with Hope in high school watching a movie called The Red Violin, which follows the journey of a violin crafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1720.

“I was struck by the way the violin enchanted its players, as if destiny had brought the instrument to them,” Hope recalls.

Then, her chorus teacher asked if she would like to attend the Luzerne Music summer camp in New York. The president of Luzerne at the time was Elizabeth Pitcairn, the current owner of the red violin. After auditioning, Hope was chosen.

“From the moment Pitcairn began (playing), I was trans-fixed,” Hope recalls. “I had never heard anything more beautiful. The violin’s sound was so pure and profound, almost divine.”

Pitcairn eventually handed the famed instrument to Hope and asked if she would like to play.

Hope closed her eyes and performed The Swan by Camille Saint-Saens.

“As I played, the music in my soul poured out of the violin,” she recalls. “Soon, there was no distinction between the violin and myself. It was a part of me, an extension of my soul. I felt a strong connection with the spirits of the people who had once played the instrument.

“This connection moved me to tears, but the violin willed me to continue until the end of my song. With a final sob, I played my last note.”

Hope says she will never forget that day as she believes the red violin came into her life for a reason: to reaffirm her deep connection with music.

“Sometimes I still have doubts and frustrations, but for me, it’s not (about being) perfect and impressing everyone; it’s about being myself and playing the best I can,” she says.

Since graduating high school in 2013, Hope has been working on writing her own original music. The first song she wrote and produced on Garageband started with a chord progression, followed by her writing a melody over it on violin and adding harmonies, beats and synth layers.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to sit and try to write something if you’re not inspired to do so,” she says. “It’s a long process to find the balance where the music flows naturally.”

A few years ago, Hope met another Kaua‘i musician, violinist Aowl Owen, when both were hired to play at a fund-raiser for Filipino Community Center on O‘ahu.

“After getting to know each other better, we finally started playing music together,” Hope says. “(Owen) is actually the first person that I’ve written original music with. I’ve really enjoyed putting our minds together to create something new.”

Now, the two are preparing for their first joint concert of original music.

“This is the first time that either of us has put a concert together, and it’s been overwhelming at times,” Hope admits. “But we’re learning a lot, and because Aowl and I have been working hard on writing our own original music for such a long time, it is a dream come true for us to put on a concert that will be showcasing our songs.”

Hope and Owen’s concert, titled “Night Of Original Music,” takes place on Valentine’s Day at Kaua‘i Christian Fellowship in Kōloa. There will be food for purchase starting at 5:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:45, with the concert running from 7 to 8 p.m. Advanced tickets are available at Bandwagon in Līhu‘e and Aloha Exchange in Kalāheo. Tickets are also available at the door. Suggested donation is $40 per couple or $30 per person. Attire is semiformal to formal. Dessert and photos are available after the concert. For more information, call 635-3323.