Saturday, March 15, 2008

A big deal: Quinn Kelsey's debut at the MET.

In a little under two weeks, I will be meeting up with several of my former teachers and alumnae of the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus at the Cornell Club in Manhattan. If you know me at all, or you've been following my blog, you know that this choir figured prominently in my youth, imbuing me with much of the love, sisterhood, family, and self-confidence, not to mention musical background, that I have today. I still feel the pull towards them so strongly, despite the majority of the United States being between us, that various staff members ("aunties" and "uncles," as we called them) appear often in my dreamlife. I can never get enough of HYOC, or talk enough about HYOC, or thank HYOC enough, or for that matter get very far away from HYOC (not that I'd try). haha. I'm nearly 5,000 miles away and I still find myself getting involved with the newsletter and the alumnae website and so forth. Anyway. You can imagine my excitement. I adore these people.

So, why are all these crazy Hawaiians coming up to New York, you ask?

Well, I'll tell you. It's to support the debut at the Metropolitan Opera of one of their former protégés, Quinn Kelsey. Quinn will play Schaunard in La Bohéme, a considerable feather in his hat and a fabulous start to what I'm sure will be a long and quite successful career. Truly, all the amazing things they say about Quinn's voice cannot be repeated enough: "a fine, full and fluid baritone" ... a "major-league instrument" ... "a ravishing, honey timbered, plush velvet" voice ... et cetera, et cetera. The last time I heard him sing, he was a senior in high school (putting me in about 10th grade, I think), and already the man could blow most of the people his age out of the water. And now here he is debuting at the MET, holyshit, right?

Holyshit, indeed. So of course I am proud of this young man, just as every other person who knows him in the slightest is at this moment, I am sure. (And to be fair, despite years of being in HYOC together, I knew him only in the slightest as well.)

But can I lob the smallest of all complaints? I am more than a little put out that nowhere in the considerable press about him and nowhere on his comprehensive website was I able to find mention of his training with the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus (except this Hana Hou! article, which incidentally is the magazine I used to work for, go Hana Hou!, you guys rock!). Look, it's really none of my business, and if anyone should have their feelings bruised, it should be the staff. So I should probably piss off about this. Perhaps the training is not mentioned on the website or in the press, but he's expressed his gratitude personally to them? I deeply and sincerely hope so. So take these words with a grain of salt, considering that they are just the opinion of a person who barely knows him gazing at the situation.

That small complaint lodged, I join the rest of the Hawaii contingent in joyfully toasting his success! YAY, QUINN! GO, QUINN!


Anonymous said...

Here here! This is my first Blogging experience, and what a topic to join in on! May, don't feel bad about what you questioned-any respectful person would recognize those who helped them get to where they are. As a hawaiian he should have recognized his entire family lineage, be it blood related or not, as well as a chrisitan, he should be praising those wonderful staff members that have given him opportunity after operatunity (hee hee). Maybe there is some deep dark secret why he is not connecting his name to HYOC, maybe if he isn't too high maka maka someone may pose the question and get a real answer.

Janet said...

I was there for a later performance. I go to the Met all the time, and I must have seen this particular Boheme six or seven times. And I have NEVER before seen a Schaunard able to capture and hold the audience's attention the way Quinn did. He turned a minor part into a major part. And I don't know him in the slightest, so this is an unbiassed comment.

As far as acknowledgingthe chorus, I would bet it's not an intentional slight. It can be awfully hard to balance all the people you actually owe something to, the people who think you owe them something, and the people it's politic to mention. Inevitably something important slips through the cracks. But I'll bet he was delighted and grateful to have you guys there!

Mayumi said...

Hi Janet:

Thanks for reading & commenting!

With my nonprofit worker's salary, I was not actually able to attend the performance. I am pleased to hear that you were impressed with his instrument and his musicality. I am glad for Quinn that, as I suspected, La Boeme is just the beginning of a very exciting career.

But I'm afraid I don't believe it's as simple as forgetting to acknowledge HYOC. Quinn is from Hawaii, as I am, and where we come from, you acknowledge those who helped to get you where you are. I'm not even in the field of music anymore, and I still acknowledge HYOC for so much of the person I have become. We both *grew up with* this choir, so that he got not only musical training but immense amounts of support from the choir.

Maybe it's not an intentional slight. Maybe. But we're not talking just on the Playbill, or just in one article, or just on his website. We're talking a uniform stance across all the news articles he has done, in which ONE article mentions his background with Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus, and this from a magazine (Hana Hou!) that I can personally say really does it's research (I used to intern there).

Just to put it further in perspective, Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus ( was started almost 50 years ago *as* a children's opera chorus ... to provide children in the operas of Hawaii Opera Theater. This is how Quinn and the rest of us found ourselves in the first opera productions of our lives. ALSO, I can't help but mention what a boon it would be for a struggling arts organization to have him acknowledging them as *part of* his background. I'm not saying he needs to write them paragraphs of praise, just say one sentence: "my sister and I were in Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus for many years." That's it. Just have some humility and some respect for where you came from. That may be a lot to ask of mainland artists, but that is standard form in Hawaii.


Mayumi said...

Hello again Janet:

I hope you and your readership--and for that matter MY readership too!--checks out the website of the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus . . . and if you are in the position and mood to support a worthy arts organization, please consider directing your support towards HYOC . . . perhaps it can help nurture further little divas and maestros? :)


Anonymous said...

I know I'm late to the party on this one, but FYI

Quinn Kelsey fact sheet:

-First appearance in an opera:
Aida (1991) as a member of the Kamehameha Alumnai Glee Club.

-Years of attendance in HYOC: 1994-1996 (3 yrs)

Mayumi said...

Hi Anonymous:

It's hard to read tone from e-mail and blog comments.

I can't tell if you're criticizing me for getting "the facts" wrong, but if you are, I accept the criticism willingly. I didn't realize he first was in an opera via Kamehameha, or that he was only in HYOC for three years. It seemed he and his sister were around a lot longer than that.

BUT if his bio said anything about this, I would have done my research. ha.

Or, perhaps, you are trying to point out that he also does not acknowledge Kamehameha or glee club?

Or maybe you are telling me to mind my own business?

I don't know. I hope my entry did not offend you, whoever you are. I do not begrudge a talented man his success, only question why he doesn't acknowledge those who helped get him there.

If you have more to say to me, you should feel free to email me at But if you do so, please have the courage to identify yourself.


Anonymous said...

I have come only to drop science and not debate what choir he chooses to acknowledge and what choir he chooses not to acknowledge.

While I don't begrudge you your opinion on that matter, nor do I find it particularly offensive, I do find it funny that you call one anonymous a coward and not another.

So, for your double standard, I see no reason to lift the veil that the internet affords me.

Mayumi said...

Touche, "Anonymous."

I have no interest in an Internet war. Those get awfully sticky awfully fast.

If you wanted to continue the conversation, I merely wanted to know who I was talking to. I was not calling you a coward.

However, in the interests of all honesty, I didn't "call out" the first Anonymous because I knew who it was. I, in fact, had to ask that the person repost their comment because the first draft of it was too harsh on Quinn, and I have no desire to become hate central.


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