A Cool Teen Jam On Friday Nights

Daphne Sanchez

Hanging out is a teen pastime, always has been, kind of a metaphor for, “OMG! I’m between childhood and adulthood and what do I do now?” Everybody, including 18-year-old Daphne Sanchez, knows this.

What Sanchez does is add a focus to the usual pattern of Friday night mall hangs by hosting Jam Room in a vacant storefront in Kukui Grove Center.

“It was Art’s idea,” says Sanchez, referring to Art Umezu, film commissioner for the island. He’s gotten the talented teen some singing gigs and looks ahead to the bigger picture.

Umezu cinched the space and proposed the idea to Sanchez last summer, after she graduated magna cum laude from Kaua’i High with perfect attendance.

“Art helped me get out there more,” says Sanchez. “He said that I have a gift, and I can share that with other kids to let out their inner Gagas. It’s not about me showing what I can do; it’s using my gift to show other kids they can have the same opportunity that I have – that it’s not my stage, it’s their stage.”

Her big talent, she says, is, “I love, love, love to sing, and I didn’t realize I could sing until I was about 11, and that was when my mom made me take voice lessons. She saw the potential, and I just couldn’t stop singing around the house.”

Which is still the case. Entering the Shower of Stars Contest in middle school, she didn’t win, but it triggered something in her, she says. “I love being on stage and having this whole space to myself and telling a story through music,” says Sanchez. “I sing any type of genre if there’s a message to it, and I like songs reaching out to the younger generation. I don’t sing songs that are new. I like old songs; I like a melody that catches people’s attention.”

She shines singing At Last, a favorite done by Celine Dion. And she enjoys

Reflections by Christina Aguilera.

Music could be her future, but she’s definitely including college and a degree in child psychology. “My parents brought me up to want education in my future,” she says.

About to enter her second year at Kaua’i Community College, Sanchez buses tables at Café Portofino at Kalapaki Beach, and acts in South Pacific at the Kaua’i Beach Resort. The few coins she manages to rub together, she spends on “supah-dupah cakes” with all the trimmings and soda for treats on Friday nights – Art and her mother contribute.

Natural charm, an easy smile, hot for hip-hop and working out, Sanchez has a schedule that would make most adults cringe. But she’s cool with it all, taking time to listen to Christian, country, a lot of hip-hop, duets and lyrical ballads on her iPod, eating Mexican and Italian and pursuing her most special skill in the kitchen: “Opening the refrigerator door to see what’s in there.”

Whether singing for the KPD D.A.R.E. program, at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Hanapepe or at Vidinha Stadium during football season, this teen always finds time to encourage others.

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