Jammin’ island style

KAPAA — They came from Malibu. They came from Eleele. They came from Slovenia and numerous other destinations around the world. 

However, they all shared one passion — a love for music and the passion to share their original compositions.

Wednesday marked the opening day of the Kauai Music Festival at the Courtyard by Marriott Kauai resort in Kapaa. Veteran songwriter Sue Ennis, who co-wrote more than 70 songs for the classic rock group Heart, was one of the many guest speakers. Select aspiring songwriters attending the festival would be granted the opportunity to meet one-on-one with her and other music veterans for feedback on their music and business mentoring sessions. 

Ennis saluted Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart for impacting her career.

“They scooped me up and showed me I had talent and they believed in me,” Ennis told The Garden Island.

Twenty-year-old Dondi Iannucci of Eleele is looking for somebody to believe in her. She began composing and performing when she was 12, is studying business at Boise State University and has been working at a coffee shop in Hanapepe during summer break. But she holds onto the dream of performing and having her music heard. 

This year was her third time attending the Kauai Music Festival, which

attracted about 200


“I write about the things you could never say or talk about out loud — feelings, deep thoughts,” Iannucci said. 

She performed at the open-microphone session Wednesday night with her older brother, Thomas Ianucci.

“I think people appreciate realness in their songs, not just polished nonsense,” Thomas said. “They like a good story that is relatable.”

Thomas is a rapper and thinks he has a handle on what makes a hit.

“Make it relatable,” Thomas said. “I talk about my own experiences in my music but leave enough blanks for people to fill in for themselves.”

From the bar to the hallways to conference rooms at the resort, music “talk story” was on fire. 

Jesse Shiroma, who plays the accordion and performs with a group in Honolulu at the Hard Rock Cafe, said a song should have a certain perennialism. 

“It never goes away. It’s steady and hangs in there,” Shiroma said.

Annie Dingwall, 23, from Dallas believes most people don’t really know why they like a song. They just like it. She attended previous festivals over the past five years and met a music producer. Now, she’s writing dozens of songs for other artists to record. But her ambitions run deeper. 

“I really want to get my music licensed, make my career boom,” Dingwall said. “I want to be an artist and get a record deal.”

Dingwall is betting on one element when it comes to songwriting.

“Most people don’t want to hear a pity party,” she said.

First time festival attendee Alesia Panajota, of San Francisco, begs to differ. The blues, jazz and rock performer has been writing music since she was 10 and says she writes from the feelings of an agonizing relationship.

“It comes from a raw, broken kind of place where I feel the heal as I write,” Panajota said.

Vocalist and guitarist Miss Meaghan Owens, who visited the event from Maui, agreed.

“It’s all about the heart. That’s it,” Owens remarked. “The heart of the message allows the listener to examine something deeper than themselves.” 

Songwriter, arranger and producer Thomas Kozlevcar traveled from Slovenia to the networking event. He has gotten a taste of musical success with his arrangement of the song “Africa,” originally performed by Toto. He wants more of what he considers the magic of songwriting.

“Stars should align in just the right position again and thunder happens,” he said. 

Brandi Miller of Princeville, who cleans homes for her day job, has so much faith and hope in herself and her music, she uses visualization techniques about future success.

“I imagine going to my mailbox and opening a royalty check,” Miller said.

The festival culminates with concerts tonight and Saturday at the resort beginning at 7 p.m. with the announcement of a songwriting contest winner. Tickets are available at



Lisa Ann Capozzi, a features and education reporter can be reached at lcapozzi@thegardenisland.com


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