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Sing SIng SIng Sing!

Left to right: Hank Curtis, Laine Griffith, Diana Leone, Cary Valentine, Trishana Star, Barbara Pen-dragon, Christine Melamed, Mary Ellen Kopitzke, Stanley Wolshin, Melissa Mojo and Erik Hagen. PHOTO BY COCO ZINGARO

Left to right: Hank Curtis, Laine Griffith, Diana Leone, Cary Valentine, Trishana Star, Barbara Pen-dragon, Christine Melamed, Mary Ellen Kopitzke, Stanley Wolshin, Melissa Mojo and Erik Hagen.
PHOTO BY COCO ZINGARO

It takes guts to perform in front of an audience, but sometimes all a person needs to go from singing in the shower to pouring their heart out on stage is a bit of encouragement.

Kauai Island Singers Showcase (KISS) provides singers with just that nudge, as well as an opportunity to learn musical skills and improve on their performance abilities.

“I really want to be comfortable singing in front of people, not being all nervous, and trying to not get distracted by the audience but be strong in myself and grounded, just to share with the audience the best I can be,” explains Trishana Star, a singer with KISS. “I also like that the audience knows we’re trying our best and they’re not going to judge us too much.”

She is one of the more than 20 KISS vocalists who regularly entertain audiences, completely free of charge, singing solos or duets of their own choosing.

“This is really something for singers to grow and to learn, and to feel like they can stick their neck out,” says Melissa Mojo, one of the founding members of KISS who started the group in 2012 as a way to overcome her own stage fright.

Mike Kobayashi has been with KISS since 2013, and admits his nerves kept him from performing in the past.

“I used to stress out from the time we found out what the theme was. Now, I get it about an hour before the show,” he says.

Prior to joining the group, he started singing with the Westside’s Starlighters Big Band, but admits he was still reluctant to perform before an audience. Kobayashi is grateful to find KISS because it since has given him more confidence, especially under the guidance of Hank Curtis, a professional musician and musical director of the group.

“I found out it was a great venue to, first of all, get comfortable with the song that’s in your key, and then get to practice with a musician like Hank and get comfortable enough to get up on stage and go for it and see what comes out,” says Kobayashi.

The Waimea High School grad has been improving so much, he’s now singing with the Kauai Community College Jazz Band.

“It’s a good journey,” he says.

Erik Hagen, the group’s youngest member at 32, has enjoyed the ride as well.

“I just like to sing,” he says. “We like to perform and it makes people feel happy.”

He recalls always having the performance bug and acting as “Little Elvis” at his mom’s restaurant in Washington when he was a child. He’s still known as the “resident rocker.”

“I go outside the mold,” he says.

He also gives back in a big way by filming every concert, not only so that it can play on Hoike Kauai Community Television, but also so that the group can critique their performances and continue to improve.

“We’re just getting better every time,” says Curtis. “The level of excellence continues to grow.”

KISS offers various factors that improve stage presence, including its venue at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Kapaa —with sound and lights to boot.

It also provides technical knowledge of the craft, which helps vocalists master their skills. Curtis, who is a pianist, composer and teacher, lends his professional insight and time to each individual KISS singer, including musical theory. He was only 11 years old when he started playing concerts at large venues, and debuted with San Diego Symphony at 15, performing Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto #2 in G-Minor. By his 20s, he was playing piano at Carnegie Hall. In other words, he’s no stranger to performing.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the community and help people realize their musical goals,” he says.

Dhyana Dunville, who has been with the group since its inception, certainly has realized hers. She recently formed a band called Dhyana Quartet and believes KISS was her “springboard.”

“I always had this part of me that wanted to get out and sing, but I never had the courage to sing in front of anybody. It was always in there just waiting to come out,” she says. “This is the perfect vehicle for me to express myself through.”

KISS will present its next free concert, “Rock ‘n’ Blues and Holiday Tunes,” Sunday (Dec. 6) at 5 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church. Songs will include everything from All Shook Up by Elvis Presley to O Holy Night. Visit facebook.com/KISSKauai for more information.

cocomidweek@gmail.com

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