On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Hawaii Island

Rainbow Falls in Hilo.

Aloha from one of the most magical places on earth – Hawaii’s Big Island, where we just completed two tapings of the radio show, plus a week of educational visits in local schools with our partner Hawaii Public Radio.

The Big Island is such a fascinating place. I’ve been told there are eleven different climate zones here. In our few days on the island, we’ve experienced dry desert, chilly rain, lush forests, vog (that’s volcanic ash fog that burns your throat), and the kind of tropical beaches you usually only see on postcards. There’s also a huge snow-capped mountain here, where people drive up to stargaze. Amazing! I’ve included a short video of my drive across the island with From the Top’s Production Manager Elizabeth DeVore.

Our first taping was in Kamuela, also known as Waimea, which is the center for ranching activities on the island. The show was terrific, and the kids were a lot of fun. I was excited because one of my favorite vocal pieces was featured – “Monica’s Waltz” from Menotti’s opera The Medium. Teenage soprano Hailey Markman really brought it to life!

An especially touching moment during that show was when Chris O’Riley played a piece in tribute to the late Ellen Masaki, a legendary piano teacher from Hawaii who was a great friend to From the Top. We all miss her and it was nice to be able to honor her memory.

Sean Robbins. Photo by Hawaii Tribune-Herald

After Waimea, we were off to Kea’au, which is on a different part of the island, near Hilo. We performed our show on the campus of the Kamehameha School. There was an incredible moment towards the end of our dress rehearsal. Students from the school were in the audience watching, and when they stood up to leave, they sang us a traditional Hawaiian chant to us to thank us for inviting them.

The taping went great and was so well received. Hawaii audiences are some of the most generous I’ve encountered. I think they were especially proud of their hometown musician, slack key guitarist Sean Robbins (pictured right).

We’re all sad to leave Hawaii tomorrow, but we’re looking forward to our next taping in Santa Barbara on Wednesday. I’ll catch up with you then! Signing off from paradise…