LIHUE — To prepare for this week’s Christmas concert, Philip Steinbacher began brainstorming ideas five months ago.
For Steinbacher, head of Island School’s Fine Arts Department and choral conductor, it really was Christmas in July.
“I have a lot of ideas; I start planning and listening to Christmas music in July,” Steinbacher said. “I try to find a unifying concept and look for educational aspects. It’s not just a bunch of songs, but I am teaching them about music. Since music encompasses so many things such as history and culture, I’m looking for ways to teach them something with every piece that we do.”
The Island School Chorus, made up of three choral ensembles, will take the stage with “Christmas Rocks!” Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Kauai Community College Performing Arts Center.
Comprised of 115 students, the chorus will sing Christmas classics dating back to the 1940s, but will also have a modern day twist, something that has inspired the students to put on a great show.
“The music is really fun,” said Taj Gutierrez, a junior. “The music seems really modern, and I’ve only been here for two years and we’ve only really done really classical Christmas music, but this is so fun. I feel that I can really get into it and dance.”
Being able to perform music he enjoys allows Gutierrez to relax and not be too nervous to perform.
“It’s so much harder to do a duet or a song in front of your classmates,” Gutierrez said. “High schoolers are judgy. They will talk about you when they’re eating and stuff, but an audience at a show? They don’t know you. They can talk about you, but when are they ever going to see you again? It’s harder to sing in class, but it’s good practice. It’s motivating and it makes me a better singer.”
Like Gutierrez, junior Kens Hubbard finds solace in the fact that she can express herself on stage, which is something Steinbacher encourages his students to do.
“It’s so funny because when I got into this chorus in the ninth-grade for my first rehearsal, I shook,” Hubbard said. “I was shaking and I could feel my heart hammering. There’s always a fear of being judged, but this year we have a really nice group so I’m not afraid anymore because we’re encouraged to dance and have fun.”
While the high school students took a brief break during Tuesday’s rehearsal, elementary and middle school students flooded the classroom to join the practice as one big group.
Packed like sardines on the choral risers, there almost wasn’t enough room for each singer to breathe. But Emma Kelekoma, a junior, said that it’s all a part of the experience of singing a large group number.
“I’m excited about the group numbers,” Kelekoma said. “They’re always so big and tend to bring you to tears a lot of the time. There’s so many voices singing. It’s crazy, but it’s a lot of fun.”
It’s organized chaos for Steinbacher, but he’s been waiting for months for this opportunity to showcase his students.
“The creative prospect is the most exciting thing. In my head I have a vision, but I don’t know what it’s gonna be,” Steinbacher said.
“And that’s the great thing about live performances versus listening to a live recording. Or seeing a play versus a movie. It’s live and it’s in the moment. People come and say how shocked they were (by how good the show was). It’s just so great there’s so many kids singing.”
Tickets for the concert are on sale at Island School’s front office and will be available at the door at KCC if space permits. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth, ages 3-17.