March 3, 2014: First Step to a New Beginning: As we all say our final goodbyes to our families, Dori’s mom takes her last pictures of us, Daphnei’s mom runs to hug everyone good luck, and my parents walk off to return home, it all hits me at once. This is actually real; it’s no longer a dream, or just a thought. Our journey begins here.
We arrive to our gate, 2 hours early and all there is left for us to do is wait and eat all the food our families bought us. Then we finally boarded our plane to LAX! While boarding I found I was the only one not sitting with the rest of the group, although I did not mind, a man who was sitting in my original seat of the plane was willing to switch with me so I could experience my first flight with everyone together. We were on our first step to Washington, not knowing what to expect but open for anything!
March 4, 2014: Brazilian Food > Coldness, Los Angeles, I’ve been here many times, however, this time was different. This time I knew it was just the beginning of my amazing journey. We boarded our second plane to our final destination! So much excitement filled my body I could barely sleep. I found myself looking out the window every second to see where we were. Once we finally hovered over Washington ice started to fill my window. I looked out the window to find snow!! Once we landed, the freezing air hit our bodies and we quickly changed into our coats, scarves, and gloves. We were all well prepared for this, so we thought. However, once we got out the doors of the airport, I almost froze. It felt like hours just waiting for our shuttle, but seeing all the snow for the first time was so awesome! When our shuttle came it took us to our hotel, Crowne Plaza. Danell and I were roomed together and were surprised to see that our roommates from Oakland have not arrived. We then got dressed into warmer clothes and got ourselves ready for dinner. We all met and headed to the Metro, which is not as scary as the subways in London. Mister always talked about taking us to eat Brazilian food, but I never really understood what Brazilian food was. So, I went in with wide eyes, and I left with a wide stomach! Let me tell you, Fogo De Chao, had the best food I have ever tasted in my entire life. For those of you who have never eaten Brazilian food, they literally cut you freshly cooked meat right off their skewers and it’s cooked to perfection! No need for salt, pepper, or shoyu! After that meal, I learned the true meaning of “kanak attack” because Danell and I showered and went straight to sleep with no hesitation or struggle, even though it was only about 4 pm in Hawaii.
March 5, 2014: First Day of Adventure: This day I woke up extra early to be sure I didn’t miss a thing, so early it was about 1 am in Hawaii. Danell and I were actually the first ready, so we had time to spare, which was spent watching the local news. Later, we all headed to the Metro and walked to place called “Corner Bakery” where we had breakfast. I had a light breakfast because I was still stuffed from all the Brazilian food.
After breakfast, we headed to our first workshop and the W hotel. I was a bit nervous, to see so many students there, but everyone was very welcoming as soon as the workshop started. We started off with an icebreaker, we all threw in one of our shoes and we had to pick a shoe that was not ours and find the person the shoe belonged to and introduce ourselves to the person. By the end of the night we should have met at least two new students. One student I met wanted to go to college in Hawaii so she was happy to have met someone from there.
After we were introduced to Kait Stuebner and Bob Santelli, both a part of the Grammy Museum and coordinators of our workshops. Bob seemed to be very knowledgeable and passionate about soul music. Before our trip, I did a lot of research on Bob and he always inspired me. Our main objective of the workshop was Music Production. Bob brought in actual people who run the Grammys that we see on TV every year. He used his guest to prepare us for our day in the White House. His guest answered many questions on the challenges and preparation process they go through in order for the Grammys to be perfect. Through this experience it all hit me how real this all is. Tomorrow we are actually going to the White House! I will make Barnes history; we will make NPAC history, Nanakuli history! After our first workshop everyone had some time to kill and we all had to meet at the American History Museum.
So, within our extra time we played with snow for the first time and had our first mini snow fight. Everyone was too cold to really throw it at each other. In the meantime we also saw a squirrel and freaked out. Everyone warned us not to feed the squirrels because they’re supposedly “evil”! That’s hard to believe, they’re too cute!
Later, everyone came together at the museum where our group met the sweet and intelligent Mary Flury, our tour guide. In our group was Minneapolis and Oakland (the group who was supposed to be rooming with us but told us they were going to room together which meant Danell and I had the room to ourselves). Anyways, Mary took us on our tour. For a person not really into history, I was surprised to be in love with everything I learned that day. (Interesting fact #1: Dorothy’s original red pumps were in the museum and was very important because when “The Wizard of Oz” came out it was a time when color was just hitting the televisions. Interesting fact #2: The creator of our American Flag only made about $450 for her creation we still use today and it took her only about 3-4 months. Interesting fact #3: Deja and I attempted to go prom dress shopping in the First Ladies Inaugural Ball Gowns… it was a fail).
We were then treated dinner by our sponsor, AEG’s Martha… at the Hamilton where I tasted the very delicious Rockfish for the first time! We also got to speak a little with Martha, where she learned a little about NPAC and NPAC learned a little about Martha. Then we had to run over to our second workshop at the W hotel where Bob had something different in mind for our group of students.
From what I heard, every year in the second workshop students learned the steps of writing a song and eventually wrote a song. However, Bob wanted us to be different. This time we used our second workshop as rehearsal; he wanted us to be the first to perform a song as a group for the guest stars at the White House. We rehearsed “Sweet Soul Music” which gave us NPAC girl’s relief because we have been performing this song for over a year. Mr. Kitsu has prepped us well for this day.
March 6, 2014: White House Got Soul: This had to be the coldest, yet, best day EVER!! Where do I start?! Okay so the morning was full of excitement! We got into our best clothing and I was exceedingly nervous! I was about to meet the First Lady and her Guest Stars!
We headed to the Metro and got off at the closest stop to the White House and we waited in a huge line filled with every student who was invited. Then, we had to go through about 5 different securities, including two ID checks, a dog sniff, metal detector thingy, and some other stuff. On the other hand, every security guard there was really nice and welcoming. Then there it was, we were actually in the White House!
We looked outside the windows and all you see is people wishing they could come in, and me, a young adult did nothing but love performing was actually in the White House! I can’t describe what it was like, every student in there for once connected, even though we all came from different places and faced different challenges we all felt the same for that moment.
When walking into the actual dining room, NPAC sat in the second row, two feet away from the podium where Michelle Obama would speak, less than six feet away from the chairs where the stars sit. 10 minutes laters, in walks Melissa Etheridge, Janelle Monae, and Patti LaBelle, soon later in comes our First Lady, Michelle Obama.
Each of their messages was similar but told in a different way. Basically saying, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, and what your past was, every person has the potential to be some thing as long as they “work their butts off”. I think that’s why the people chosen were from disadvantaged areas. Every message inspired me. Bob also taught us that soul music comes from within; it shouldn’t only affect the audience but also the artist.
After Bob and Mrs.Obama’s spoke, the guest stars answered some questions, then, one by one each star sang. Even though Patti LaBelle wasn’t asked to sing she volunteered to, getting everyone even more hyped. Everything was perfect! We even got to sing “Sweet Soul Music” to the amazing stars!
Once the workshop was over we said goodbyes to our friends we have met throughout the days and we moved on to more adventure. We took a Metro to T.G.I. Friday’s to celebrate an overwhelmingly unbelievable day! We then ventured off to see the historical places. First was the World War II Memorial. This was extremely sad for me to see a huge wall filled with the names of the courageous warriors that fought for us. It seemed to be a never-ending list of names.
Next, we headed to Lincoln Memorial, a place you only see in text books or the penny, its way bigger than the penny, try a billion times bigger, even bigger than that! It was so mind-blowing! Then we walked down to the Korean Memorial where statues of the heroes who fought took over the field.
Later, we found some warmth in a cab on the way to Kennedy Center. This is where we went to watch a ballet, which showed tribute to the Beetles and Rolling Stones. The dancers technique was on point and crisp every movement made was powerful. After seeing how clean something can be I understand how messy my performances sometimes are. Therefore, I truly came to appreciate watching this performance because I learned what it means to be crisp, and clean.
March 7, 2014: It’s Not The End: We have come to the last day of our trip; we’re packed, and ready to return home. This trip has given us wisdom to succeed through any challenge life hands us. It has given us knowledge about the power of music and what it can do to not only the audience but the artist as well. This can pertain to life, too, sometimes we do things to only please others leaving ourselves unhappy.
I learned that where I come from, and what my past was does not determine my future. I know now that without the Kitsu family, NPAC, its supporters, my family, AEG, the Grammy Museum, Patti LaBelle, Janelle Monae, Melissa Etheridge, and God I would not be at the airport flying home from WASHINGTON DC! It’s so much to take in, but I know NPAC can only go up from here! Once again, I thank every person that has got NPAC this far!