Sean Robbins Shares a Big Love for Music on the Big Island of Hawaii

Sean with the Students of Hilo Union Elementary

After appearing on From the Top, 16 year-old slack-key guitarist and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Sean Robbins of Pahoa, HI organized a series of interactive performances at the Hilo Union Elementary School. He gave three 45-minute performances for fourth graders at the school, with about twenty students per group. Sean hoped to inspire these children to take a greater interest in music by demonstrating a variety of styles, and sharing the fun and valuable experiences he has had as a musician.

He shares more:

“I would like to communicate that there are younger people playing Hawaiian music and you can take it somewhere and make a career out of it.”

We asked Sean to tell us more about his project:

FTT: How did you come up with your project idea?

Sean: I chose this activity because I like to work with kids. I know that at this age they are easily inspired.

FTT: What was the experience like for you? Was there a favorite moment?

Sean: This was an extremely rewarding project and I am very glad that I did it. My goal was to inspire the kids to play music, and to show them that it is a viable career.

Afterwards one of the classes decided that they wanted to shake my hand, so I had to shake 20 hands that turned into 60 since they all wanted to go again and again. After the hand shaking, we said goodbye and went to the other two classes, who were just as excited.

FTT: What do you think the audience took away from the event?

Sean: The kids were very interested in what I had to say and they sat quietly for the whole 45 minutes until I asked if they had any questions. I was also very impressed with their questions.

FTT: What did you learn from this experience? Do you think this type of experience can help your development as a musician?

Sean: This experience definitely helped my development as a musician. You have to be able to think quickly to answer any questions that the kids may ask and improvise on what pieces you are going to play to accommodate the audience. I also learned a lot about organizing an arts leadership project, and I found out that I really enjoy interacting with kids.

FTT: What advice would you give other musicians interested in doing a similar project?

Sean: I’d recommend a project like this to anyone who enjoys being around kids and wants to perpetuate music at a young age. If I were to give them advice it would be to start organizing your project right away so that you aren’t rushed towards the end, and to practice speaking in front of an audience. Most of all to be ready for any questions the kids might ask.

I was quite surprised to see that almost half the kids in the class played some sort of instrument. When I told them I started playing music when I was two years older than them, they were very optimistic in terms of becoming musicians. I hope that the kids left with some inspiration to continue playing (or to start).

Several students wrote letters to Sean thanking him for his visit. Two of those letters are included below: