On Saturday, I went down to Murphy’s Bar & Grill to watch a UH game with some friends. My buddy Kelii Wong was about to go shoot a music video with local rapper Prie. Before he left, he showed me a recent photograph of Mike Love and his percussion player, Sam Ites, with Usher. I don’t know the whole story, but it was pretty cool to see one of the island’s most talented musicians rubbing elbows with a superstar. Knowing that following your dreams can take you places is inspiring, and I decided to dedicate this week’s column to inspiration.

In medical terminology, inspiration is to breath in. It’s part of a natural breathing cycle: inspiration in, expiration out. If you aren’t familiar with this type of inspiration, I question how you are reading this.

Inspiration supports life’s basic functions, and in the Hawaiian language and culture, inspiration or breath is akin to western notions of the soul. In its more common usage, inspiration is still something that fills a person’s spirit with a newly focused, fortified desire to do.

Last week, I found myself exploring inspiration nearly as much as I inspired.

On Thursday, I attended an education-themed panel discussion at UH. Although the topic was charter schools, questions raised reached deeper into the core of education: How do you get students to reach their maximum potential? Are there any programs that bring together students from schools around the island to learn together? I hesitantly raised my hand, but I was sheepish and didn’t get the attention of the moderator, Alia Wong, who told me afterward that she thought I was just stretching.


What I would have told the passionate audience that night is that Select Band programs offered me that opportunity in middle school and high school. Students from all over the island came together, but unlike competitions, which can pit schools against each other and increase the feeling of geographical divide between institutions and their respective student bodies, these programs pooled some of the state’s most talented musicians together to play in unison, syncopation and harmony. I still keep in touch with musicians I met through the program, and I feel extremely lucky to have participated as a trumpet player for several years. The Pow! Wow! School of Music offers a similar experience for students of non-traditional music styles like rock, hip-hop and R&B.

Last week at 445 and 449 Cooke St., arts education and creation program PRESENT Project came to a close. Hadley Nunes organized a month-long residency for five artists, an education designer and more than 200 students from all over the island to convert two connected warehouse spaces into an interactive playpen with 20-foot tents, a thatch bamboo jungle gym, sweeping floor-to-ceiling sails and video installations that captured the imagination and spirit of youthful adventure.

I visited on one of the last nights and not only were some of the children who helped make the art there playing, climbing and thriving in the environment they created, but parents were there as well. I could see the pride in the parents’ eyes, as if their children had just won a sports championship or spelling bee, admiring the creations of their most precious creations. On top of that, local artists volunteered their time, energy and support. Famed Honolulu steamroller street printer Sergio Garzon was humbled to be able to work alongside Swoon and posted pics online throughout the week. Local up-and-comer Kenny Lui walked over to see what they were up to, and I had been hearing about the progress through the grapevine all month long. This event got a lot of people buzzing with a positive, artful energy.

Staying inspired is key to keeping things fresh and vibrant. It can be the difference between feeling pride and intention behind an action or just going through the motions. This week, don’t let the inspiration stop. Keep breathing and stay alive. Stay inspired and live.