To kick off the new school year Niu Valley Middle School students were treated to informal performances and words of wisdom from classically trained string musicians as part of Mr. Zachary Morita's Exploratory Music class.
Violist Drew Forde and cellist Daniel Lim, L.A.-based musicians who are in Hawaii as part of the Hawaii Chamber Music Festival, visited the class of sixth-graders Wednesday and played a range of classical pieces and pop songs. The musicians also shared advice and answered questions about their career paths.
"Start something that you're passionate about right now. Do music. Give it a try, and be open to other things," said Forde, who has been playing the viola since he was 12 years old. He holds music degrees from Mercer University and The Juilliard School.
"Music is not about being a master. It's about the journey, because it's endless," he added.
Lim, who has been playing the cello since age 9, encouraged students who want to pursue music careers to build a routine around practicing.
"Be consistent. If you do it little by little, you're building something," said Lim, who holds degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Morita's Exploratory Music class helps expose Niu Valley Middle students to a taste of band, orchestra and percussion before students go on to select an instrument.
"I wanted my students to be inspired by musicians in the business who have chosen this as a career and help open up possibilities for them, whether they pursue it as a job or just as a hobby," Morita said.
Sixth-grader Ian Stevens, who plays the piano, said the performances were "really cool" and that he enjoyed hearing stories from Forde and Lim. Ian said he plans to use their advice about practicing every day. "If I played longer and got more into it, I'd be good when I grow up," he said.
Last year Morita won a $100,000 grant through the Thank America’s Teachers Dream Big Teacher Challenge sponsored by Farmers Insurance. Morita's winning proposal to establish what he envisions as the Niu Valley Music Olympic Invitational student competition edged out hundreds of proposals from teachers nationwide.
The music teacher is partnering with the Hawaii Chamber Music Festival (HCMF) to promote chamber music locally. To help celebrate Morita's win and as a prelude to the student competition to be held in March, HCMF is hosting its Chamber Music Olympics concert series featuring national and international musicians.
"The inspiration behind the chamber music Olympics came from Zach Morita," said HCMF Founder Chris Yick. "The work he does for the community and his students is amazing. Hawaii is lucky to have a devoted music educator like Zach."