Sunday, May 30, 2010


A good friend told me there was a person who sang like Brother Iz who spends days in the lobby at Queen's Medical Center accompanying himself with his tenor ukulele and entertaining the patients, staff and visitors. I decided to call him last week Sunday and he called back that evening.

Steve singing Brother Iz's "Rainbow/Wonderful World"

We talked for a bit and he asked if he could accompany me at the V.A. Center for the Aging at Tripler the next day where I perform every Monday. I hesitated because I usually have my CRV packed with my keyboard and sound system for that gig. He told me he would catch the bus and meet me there. So, I told him I'd repack things and pick him up and away we went.

I normally also like to hear a person play or sing before I invite anyone to perform with me because I have a slew of bad experiences with people who are decent karaoke singers but can't keep time or pitch when singing live. So, I was a bit apprehensive because while these are free gigs, I can't subject my audience to someone who can't sing. Even someone like me has standards. Especially when applied to others.

I decided to open up with a couple of instrumental tunes and he followed the chords reasonably well. Then, I sang "Hawaii" which has some very difficult chords and he was able to fake his way through. If it turned out that he couldn't follow my chords, I could always crank up the volume on my keyboard. I was playing with an amplifier and he was acoustic. Har! Then, I asked him to sing "Kamalani" and if you closed your eyes, it sounded just like Brother Iz singing. We were all pleasantly surprised. That was enough for me. I ditched my keyboard, joined the audience and Steve finished the hour by himself.

Steve first began volunteering at Queen's Medical when his sister was hospitalized about two and a half years ago. He is there every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from about 8 in the morning to 12 noon. On Thursdays, he catches the bus from his home in Palisades and goes to Kailua and performs at Ann Pearl Nursing Home. In fact, Steve catches the bus everywhere, even to the 2 - 3 wedding gigs he does each week.

Steve wrote a song for the 29th brigade, Hawaii Army National Guard when his daughter was called to duty in the Middle East. He was featured on the T.V. show, "Living local" where he performed that song. My old unit, the 111th Army Band, Hawaii Army National Guard also featured him when they had the Aloha ceremony for the 29th Brigade at the Stadium before they shipped out. He is even in a commercial on local T.V. where he sort of resembles Sam Choy.

Steve is very professional and interacts with the audience well. I've received positive feedback not just from the audience in the room, but also from those who listened in from the hallways and from their offices. Heck, the folks at Tripler may not want me back after listening to Steve. Better practice some more.

I'm still in awe as to how many people give of themselves to make our community a better one.


Ann James said...

Steve really does sound like IZ! I told him that when I first heard him sing at Queen's 2 years ago. and he told me he and IZ were cousins....their mothers were sisters. If you're ever in Queens on Mon., Wed, or Fridays, you may be luckey enough to hear him. He wanders all over the hospital strumming and singing, wowing everyone. Ann James


Thanks Ann. I'm sure he appreciates your comments.