Waipahu Students Learn Gospel Music History
It’s not every day that five Waipahu High School students get the chance to visit Washington, D.C., meet First Lady Michelle Obama and participate in a GRAMMY Museum-sponsored workshop on “The History of Gospel Music.”
And it’s even more rare that they get to do all those things for free.
“It was as simple as answering the phone,” joked Waipahu High student activities coordinator and teacher Joy Takara.
Management company AEG Facilities (who oversees Hawaii Convention Center) called Takara with the “generous” offer to arrange and pay for everything — just two weeks before the April 11-14 workshop dates.
“I have a great admin team, and they jumped on it,” Takara said. Principal Keith Hayashi and vice principal Alvan Fukuhara helped select students and speed along the arrangements. “Normally nothing happens that quickly, but we scrambled.”
So, five lucky students — Sally Millon, Mc Erl Dave Andres, Ashley Mae Macadangdang, Clarissa Gomez and Sherrie Mae Gracie — joined 130 other students from all over the country to explore the ins and outs of the music industry.
“(It was) getting the kids to see what goes on behind the scenes in music and the entertainment business, and understand what gospel is, and what part it played in history,” Takara explained.
Students talked with industry veterans like Smithsonian Museum of American History music manager Tim Prestige and GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles director Robert Santelli, learned how to sing with the Howard University Gospel Choir, and enjoyed music with Rodney Crowell, Rhiannon Giddens, Michelle Williams, Darlene Love and Lyle Lovett.
And, of course — they met the First Lady.
Takara said Obama pushed education in her short speech to students. “Even if you might want to be in the entertainment business … No. 1 is getting a good education under your belt to be successful.
“Everything that we do is based on our education and networking. So it’s not always how much you know; it’s also who you know and how you use those connections,” Takara elaborated. The students also had the chance to tour the Capitol with Sen. Brian Schatz’s staff, visited Sen. Mazie Hirono, and got to check out the famed Cherry Blossom Festival, Arlington
National Cemetery, Lincoln Memorial and much more.
“It was an eye-opener for me,” said Andres. “I was amazed at the mix of populations on the Mainland, so different from
Hawaii and Waipahu.” Andres, who was born in the Philippines, is now even more anxious to become an American citizen, so he can “call these places my own.”