Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Hawai`i Youth Opera Chorus

Hawai’i’s premier youth chorus, the Hawai’i Youth Opera Chorus (HYOC), is the oldest and largest youth chorus in Hawai’i. We foster the performing arts through choral music, emphasizing Native Hawaiian culture. 

Approximately half of our staff is of Native Hawaiian ancestry as are a third of our young members.  Ma o na keiki, e mau ai, ka ‘ike ku’una o ka lahui.  (Through our children we perpetuate our knowledge and heritage.)  We are guided by core cultural values including: ohana (family), kuleana (accountability), kokua (help/assistance), ho'okipa (sharing and welcoming host choirs, visiting groups, choral workshops), aloha (sharing love and breath), lokahi (unity, community service), and po'okela (excellence in teaching and serving as a community resource). 

Considered leaders in music education, HYOC serves an advisory and collaborative leader for many opera, instrumental, dance and choral groups in the state.  Our students sing in languages from all over the world including the European romance and Asian languages.  However, our curriculum focuses on music from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. Among many other endeavors, HYOC served as the host for the Pacific Rim Children's Choir Festival (no longer offered), annually welcoming more than 300 visiting students, and teaching them Hawaiian and Pacific values.  Each year, approximately 7,000 people come to our performances. 

We teach music theory, singing, hula, and piano, creating a special learning environment designed to provide a rich and rewarding musical experience for each child.  Concepts about music (melody, rhythm, harmony, timbre, dynamics, form, style and performance practice) and musical skills (singing, theory, and sight-reading) are taught throughout rehearsals. The children study and perform a variety of music from simple, unison folk songs to more challenging romantic and contemporary literature.  Every other year, our membership is invited to participate in a Neighbor Island tour.

Our membership for weekly instruction averages about 200 students annually grades K – 12, both girls and boys ranging in age from five to eighteen from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities (48% Asians, 25% Native Hawaiians, 17% Caucasians, and 8% Africa Americans, 2% Native Americans and Pacific Islanders). We are deeply committed to our young members, knowing that through shared experiences, these children will excel as adults.  We are far more than a “program.”  For most of our students, we become an important part of their lives, nurturing them, encouraging them to try even when they are afraid, offering support and safety.  Our only criterion for acceptance is vocal potential and a genuine desire to sing in a choral group.


Historical Highlights for the Hawai’i Youth Opera Chorus:

  • 1992 –30th Anniversary tour of Europe, covering five countries with highlights that included singing in the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome and the Basilica Sacre Coeur in Paris.
  • 1993 --Recipients of the NA HOKU HANOHANO (Star of Distinction) award for Religious Album of the Year.
  • 1994 --HYOC represented Hawai’i at the Western Division Convention of the American Choral Directors Association in Sacramento California.
  • 1996 –Our ensemble "Na Leo Kuho’okahi" toured the east coast, which included singing at Carnegie Hall and at Disney World.
  • 1999 --European Tour visiting France, Wales & the Netherlands.  We were invited and participated in the Llangollen Eisteddfod in Wales.
  • 2002 –40th Anniversary – HYOC represented Hawai’i at the Western Division Convention of the American Choral Directors Association in Honolulu.
  • 2005--China Tour.  HYOC participated in the inaugural China Children’s International Choral Festival in Beijing China.  We also toured and performed in Xi’an, Hangzhou & Shanghai.
  • 2006--HYOC represented Hawai`i at the National Music Educator’s Conference Convention in Salt Lake City Utah.
  • 2007--HYOC represented Hawai`i at the 400th Commemoration ceremonies of the founding of the first English settlement in America in Jamestown Virginia.  That same year HYOC was the recipient of the American Masters Grant from the NEA to promote and preserve Hawaiian Choral Music on four islands.
  • 2010—HYOC participated in Chanticleer “Singing Life Festival” held in San Francisco (only 12 choruses were selected nationwide)
  • 2011--Tour to Austria and the Czech Republic, starting with the Mozart International Choral Festival at the Salzburg Dom under the Direction of Dr. Eph Ehly and Dr. Janos Czifra (cathedral musician).  The featured work was the Mozart Mass in C (also known as the “coronation mass”).  Our Art Director, Nola Nahulu, served as a festival clinician, conducting a Hawaiian sacred choral piece as part of the repertoire.


Each year, approximately 7,000 individuals come to see and hear our young singers perform. Examples include our school outreach programs that benefit an average of 550 elementary students on Oahu.  Additionally, 600 students participate in three of our annual festivals-- E Mele Kakou, Na Leo Pili Mai, and Lokahi. We serve as ambassadors of Hawaiian culture in the annual Pacific Rim Children's Choral Festival, welcoming between 500 and 600 guests and serving as chaperones and companions.  Our neighbor island tours involve hundreds of students from around the state. We perform fifteen to twenty concerts annually at such locations as assisted living homes, shopping centers, Mission Memorial Auditorium, Orvis Auditorium, and Kawaiaha'o Church.

Most of our concerts are free or offered to the public at very modest admission fees to keep community attendance possible.  To keep costs down, reach wide audiences, and involve experts in the performing arts, we collaborate with many organizations, including schools, the Hawaii Youth Symphony, Hawaii Symphony and Chorus, the Hawaii Opera Theater, and the University of Hawaii Music Department.