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Pow! Wow! Hawai‘i School of Music students John Marzan and Jessica Sayno rehearsing. Photo by Gary Chun

Pow! Wow! Hawai‘i is about music, too

Street art event's affiliated music school helps talented teens

Building off the initial success of last year’s debut, the Pow! Wow! Hawai‘i School of Music has been in full gear since two weeks ago. It will culminate in the performances of 4 bands made up of talented teenagers playing original material at tomorrow night’s big block party in Kaka‘ako.

“We’ve got more students this year,” said Andy Song, director of marketing at Flexfit, the school’s sponsor. “Admittedly, it was a little tough last year, but we have more people helping us.” One of last year’s students even returned this year to be an assistant.

Of the 16 students handpicked to participate in the school, 5 of them are repeats. A sense of camaraderie was built by last year’s class, so much so that the teens were doing monthly gigs leading up to this year’s new class, playing events like birthdays and fundraisers, and getting together for jam sessions.

“The program is twice as long this year,” Song said, “and the daily curriculum was changed a bit that would involve more teaching.” “In the first week, we gave them the tools,” added teacher Nick Kaleikini (who brought in his famous singing grandfather Danny to speak with the class), “and this second week leading up to Saturday has concentrated on rehearsals.” Returning teachers include Curtis and Annie Kamiya of the duo Mango Season.

Bringing in guest musicians to teach and talk — like DJ Compose, MC Big Mox, Los Angeles’ Aska Matsumiya and Paz Lenchantin (bassist for A Perfect Circle and now with the Pixies) and Hisham Dahud of San Francisco last year, and Paula Fuga, Anton Glamb and, from New York, James Patterson of the Knocks — bring what Song said is “their own unique angles of being artists.

“The goal of the school is to be year-round. Obviously, we’re still taking baby steps, but we are gearing towards realizing the bigger picture.”

Song and Kaleikini admit their surprise at finding out some of the musical influences of their young charges — not so much EDM and hip-hop, but older musics, like classic 1970s-‘80s rock and R&B.

“What I like with the new curriculum is that the kids are producing material a lot quicker,” said Kaleikini. “They don’t feel restricted to simple, specific structures.”

“The vision of Pow! Wow! Hawai‘i involves art, music and culture,” Song said, “and I’m glad we’ve included music education.”

Just outside of the Lana Lane Studios recording studio, a couple of students who make up their school band “Cinema Kids” are working out one of their tunes. Fifteen-year-old Jessica Sayno of Moanalua and 18-year-old John Marzan of Farrington are enthusiastic about how the school is shaping them as artists.

“This is different from most schools,” Jessica said. “Here, we’re put in a creative environment, where we learn that music is more than just notes and scales. The adult teachers take us seriously and we’re not treated as just teens.”

“The school is deeper than just music,” added Marzan. “It helps bring out the best in you. Even though there’s a range of ages between us, the one thing that links us together is a passion to express ourselves as best as possible.”

“John and I clicked together easily when we auditioned to come to the school,” said Jessica, who is a returnee. “There are a lot of different musical tastes among the students, and they can sometimes clash,” added Marzan. “But when we find a common ground, that’s when we have …,” and both he and Jessica say on cue with a laugh, “a music-gasm!”

You can catch the music school’s student performances, as well as Anton Glamb + 1, Alt/Air, Paula Fuga, and The Green, plus other special collaborations, at the Pow! Wow! Hawai‘i finale and night market from 6-midnight Saturday along Auahi Street in Kaka‘ako.