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Showing Up & Saying “Yes”: A Performance for All of the Right Reasons

Monday, May 17, 2010

Showing up and saying “Yes” seems to be the biggest theme in my life right now.

On Saturday, I had the privilege of strumming and singing some Hawaiian music at a school in Harlem. They were having a spring carnival—with a lūʻau theme!

The call to perform had come on Thursday afternoon from Midori & Friends, a non-profit music education organization. Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate with them at one of their events. (See more about that event HERE.) And one of the schools they are involved in was hosting this carnival/lūʻau.

A few things you should know:

  • Performing at an unknown event can be scary. You just don’t know what to expect.
  • Performing at an outdoor venue can be scary. You can’t control the weather. And you can’t control the acoustics. (Sound has a way of INSTANTLY EVAPORATING at outdoor gigs.)
  • Performing in unknown turf can be scary. Nowhere to run if things suddenly take a bad turn!
  • Performing for a group of kids can be scary. Why? Because kids are honest. If they don’t like you, you’ll know it!

Like many performers, I LOVE to have performance situations within my control. I love to know exactly what’s expected of me. AND… I love to know exactly what I can expect of the situation.


Let’s face it: How many situations REALLY happen according to plan?

When I was asked, I knew what I was getting into—or rather I knew that I DIDN’T KNOW what I was getting into.

And you know, ten years ago when I was still living the NYC actor’s life, I might have said “No, thank you” to this opportunity. There were too many variables. Too many things COULD go wrong.

And if I would have said “No, thank you” to this event, I would have missed out on the opportunity to share the Aloha spirit.

I got to the venue, which was the school’s outdoor/recess area. A steel drum band with percussion was playing.

“Oh wow… “ I thought. “And I’m going to be following (gulp!) THEM with just an my voice and an ʻukulele?”

But you know what? It worked!

Yes… there were minor technical difficulties. For example, we didn’t know where the microphones were.

But as Pops is always telling me, “E hoʻomākaukau!” Be prepared. And I was. I had thought to bring along my amp that accommodates both my ukulele and my microphone. (And thankfully my partner-in-crime, James, was there to act as roadie/sound technician/official “crooner calm down” coach!)

Could I make as much noise as the steel drum band? Nope.

Could I rock the whole playground with thunderous beats? Nope.

  • But I COULD sing a few songs from the islands.
  • I COULD share some stories about what it’s like to study on the island of Molokai.
  • I COULD tell ‘em what it’s like to stay in a valley with no electricity or telephone. (They were horrified that I had no electricity or computer! “But does that mean you had NO computer games to play?” Ha!)
  • I COULD share some of the Aloha that Pops and the whole Hawaiian community has been sharing with me.

And my buddy, Mariko, showed up to share a hula with the kids!

The whole afternoon was a beautiful experience!

So many smiling faces! Their laughter and their spontaneous “hulas” could have melted the coldest of hearts.

And… the added BONUS of the day was a young man who had recently moved from Hawaiʻi to New York City. A student at the school.

And you know what? He played the ʻukulele! I was so excited to call him up to the microphone and share a song—and he ended up sharing THREE songs throughout the event!

He was the gift of the afternoon.

It was incredible to see how his fellow students rallied around him when he stepped up to the microphone. How they formed a tight semi-circle around him as he played so that they could hear every note that he brilliantly played.

And it was incredible to see how his schoolmates came to him after every song and cheered for him.

He wasn’t an outcast. He wasn’t the “new kid who played a strange instrument.”

He was a STAR in their eyes.

He shared music from his home. He shared the Aloha spirit that runs through his veins.

He was willing to Show Up and Say “Yes!”

And that’s what it was REALLY about: SHARING ALOHA!

Not the performer’s ego—especially the part that DEMANDS that everything be perfect. (And what’s really PERFECT, anyway?)

It’s about Showing Up and Saying “Yes.”

Because only then can we share that magic of Aloha.

Was the event flawless from a technical standpoint?


Was the event flawless from a sharing/laughing/singing/stumming/”spontaneous hula” standpoint?


5 Responses to “Showing Up & Saying “Yes”: A Performance for All of the Right Reasons”

  1. cp says:

    You are part of something global! New growth comes from a budding new culture, not from a building. Playing outside, love it!! Freedom!!

  2. carol Brown says:

    my experiences in Hawaii for the past 23+ years has been about saying “yes”. Not “yes” to performing, because I play (beginner and badly) for MY pleasure only. But saying “yes” to a new friend who introduced me to Merrie Monarch and so enriched my life with the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people; saying “yes” to a suggestion to attend Aunty Nona’s Hawaiiana in Honomu Saturday classes led me on the most amazing journey… meeting great folks, learning about Hawaiian culture; saying “yes” to Liko’s suggestion to take on-line Hawaiian studies that then taught me to value MY ancestors; saying “yes” to friends who said “come to Music Camp with us” has given me the gift of mele; and MOST RECENTLY, saying “yes” to the suggestion that 2 music camps back to back would be not be crazy, it would be twice the fun! So I can’t wait for June.

  3. Jeanie says:

    Oh man! I’ve tried four times now to write what I felt, what I saw in my head as I read your post, and I just can’t. All that comes out is – GULP! (and) sniffle.

  4. Janine Ullyette says:

    What a beautiful story. Mahalo for sharing.

  5. jason says:

    Aloha Carol! I am so happy that you shared your experience with “saying Yes!” It can be tough, right? There have definitely been times where saying “NO” would have been a lot easier. And please understand that I know where there are times when one MUST say “NO.” Self-preservation is crucial! But… there’s a feeling that I get in my gut when I NEED to say “Yes!” even though my head says “Um… nope.” I’m learning to trust my gut. My naʻau knows best! Ha!

    Sounds like you are in for such a wonderful time–attending 2 fantastic camps back to back! Iʻll bet you won’t be able to call yourself a beginner for long!