Lihu‘e violinist among musicians in TV special

  • Courtesy / Susan Wright

    Lihu‘e seventh-grader Naomi Thompson (far left) will make her television debut tonight, Dec. 7.

  • Courtesy / Philip Thompson

    Naomi Thompson has played violin since the age of 2.

LIHU‘E — A 12-year-old violinist from Lihu‘e will join other young performers from throughout Hawai‘i and Japan tonight, during a television special on Hawai‘i News Now–K5.

Naomi Thompson, a seventh-grader at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, will be seen in the one-hour He Makana O Na Mele: The Gift of Music gala and fundraiser presented by Hawai‘i Youth Symphony, a nonprofit with students ages 8 through 18 from across the state.

The youth symphony televised its annual Na Mele gala for the first time in 2020. In this year’s special, HYS performers will be joined by junior orchestras in Japan, ukelele player Jake Shimabukuro, the Pacific Music Institute’s Ukelele Workshop and Hawai’i’s top-selling female vocalist of all time, Amy Hanaiali‘i.

Naomi and her fellow Hawai‘i Youth Symphony musicians taped their contribution to the special – a performance of Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks” – from the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki last month.

“The thing I really liked about it was that we could kind choose our best take, so when it goes out, everyone can hear the best music we played,” Naomi, who has played the violin since age 2, said of the recording process.

Naomi and her parents, Philip Thompson and Jean Shein, haven’t had an opportunity to see the special before its premiere. All three are looking forward to the event.

“It’s her first time that doing anything that’s going to be televised and it’s her first time doing anything for Na Mele,” Thompson said. “It was just a really exciting opportunity for her and just a very proud moment for us, as parents, to be able to see her enjoying herself and doing what she likes to do.”

Thompson also thanked HYS for providing assistance to outer-islands students, who might otherwise find participation cost-prohibitive. He also commended the symphony’s transition to virtual programming during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re very happy and thankful for their help with that … they’re a great organization,” Thompson said.

The junior orchestras from Ehime, Hokkaido and Okinawa are also set to honor the special connection between Japan and Hawai‘i. They will perform a composition commemorating Queen Liliuokalani, written by HYS alum and composer Michael- Thomas Foumai.

“Music connects us all, and if the last two years have taught us anything, it is that even when we need to physically distance, we are still stronger together and wonderfully buoyed by our shared experience,” HYS President Randy Wong said in a press release. “Playing music, at any level, fosters confidence, resilience and the self-development in young people – so vital to success and joy in life.”

Na Mele will feature interview segments with Hawai‘i Youth Symphony members and supporters, in addition to music.

The gala airs on Hawai‘i News Now–K5 at 7 p.m. tonight, Dec. 7, and on Dec. 9. It can also be streamed online at and presented in Japanese at


Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or


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