Yahoo Weather

You are here

Kuha’o Case

<p>Kuha’o Case’s first CD, “Dare to Dream” is available for download on iTunes. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Kuha’o Case’s first CD, “Dare to Dream” is available for download on iTunes. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Able to listen to a song just a few times and commit it to memory, Kuha’o Case, who is blind, plays the piano at the Mormon church in Waimea. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Able to listen to a song just a few times and commit it to memory, Kuha’o Case, who is blind, plays the piano at the Mormon church in Waimea. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>A braille note taker allows Kuha’o Case to take notes as well as read online content and much more. The machine is borrowed to use for school, and he hopes to raise funds to buy his own. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

A braille note taker allows Kuha’o Case to take notes as well as read online content and much more. The machine is borrowed to use for school, and he hopes to raise funds to buy his own. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>A braille note taker allows Kuha’o Case to take notes as well as read online content and much more. The machine is borrowed to use for school, and he hopes to raise funds to buy his own. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

A braille note taker allows Kuha’o Case to take notes as well as read online content and much more. The machine is borrowed to use for school, and he hopes to raise funds to buy his own. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Kuha’o Case, considered a prodigy for his musical abilities, plays both the organ and the piano at the Mormon church in Waimea. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Kuha’o Case, considered a prodigy for his musical abilities, plays both the organ and the piano at the Mormon church in Waimea. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Kuha’o Case plays the organ at the Mormon church in Waimea. Blind since birth, he plays from memory, able to recall and play a song after just listening to it a couple of times. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Kuha’o Case plays the organ at the Mormon church in Waimea. Blind since birth, he plays from memory, able to recall and play a song after just listening to it a couple of times. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Kuha’o Case’s grandmother puts on his shoes, specially designed to work the pedals of an organ. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Kuha’o Case’s grandmother puts on his shoes, specially designed to work the pedals of an organ. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

Not many in North Hawaii have accomplished as much as Kohala High School sophomore Kuha’o Case. Because of his incredible musical talent and his gift of inspiring others, he has been flown out to New York to deliver a TEDx Teen talk, performed in half a dozen states, made his first CD called “Dare to Dream,” and cultivated more than a half million YouTube viewers on his videos.

By following the advice of his CD title – by daring to follow his dreams – the Kohala High School student pianist and organist had only just begun to bring his message of breaking barriers, taking chances, and acting with courage to the world.

“For Kuha’o, the sky is the limit,” said his grandmother, Iwalani Case.

The son of Kekai and Hana Case, Kuah’o has been blind since infancy. With no formal musical training, at about 12 years old, he put his hands on his first keyboard and realized he could play. His friends, family, teachers and classmates soon discovered he could listen to a song for the first time, listen to it again, and replicate the song exactly from beginning to end on the keyboard.

Though shy at first, he soon began playing for others and gradually began playing at church and at events. His grandmother said that reaction to his music by listeners is usually powerful. Many, she said, have been moved to tears and experience an inexpressible joy.

After listening to him play either piano or organ and watching his nimble, perfectly designed fingers flying across the keys, there is one phrase that comes to mind — extraordinary gift. With Makana as his middle name, Kuha’o’s name means just that in Hawaiian. According to his grandmother, his name was providential, but accurately describes him.

“He has a message to share, and that is what he is all about,” Iwalani Case said.

During his first trip to Utah several years ago, Case visited Craig Jessop, dean of the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University. Jessop had invited Professor Lynn Thomas, director of organ studies at the university, to meet the young student as well.

“As things wound down, I mentioned to Kuha’o that we had just finished a rebuild of our organ,” Thomas said. “He jumped up faster than lightning, grabbed my hand and we were headed out of there before he could even finish saying goodbye to Craig.”

Thomas has been giving Case lessons during his summer visits ever since.

The professor said the music lessons he gives to most of his students typically run about a half hour, but he devotes sometimes up to three hours to work with Case per day during his stay, helping to mold him and improve his technical skills.

“He is a wonderful young man, and he has an extraordinary talent,” Thomas added.

He said that the young phenom could master technical organ lessons after learning it once or twice that takes a typical student months to dissect. He was also able to master the intimidating organ with very little instruction.

“I explained it to him once and he was able to reach out, feel the buttons and remember the order they were in,” Thomas said. “When he came out the next year, he just reached out and adjusted them. He has this facility for memory that I am jealous of.”

Thomas said he helps Case learn the complicated foot pedals by working from his hands and knees, holding his student’s toe and heel and placing it in the correct locations.

“We move through it and he gets it,” Thomas said. “That is something that I find remarkable.”

One thing Case did have to get used to was playing the organ in specially designed organ shoes, which have a pointed toe and an elevated heel. Though he used to play without shoes, he has already mastered the transition. During the school year, Case does not have a music teacher that works with him, and he relies solely on his summer Utah visits for instruction.

“He needs to get a teacher that loves him and can work with him and (to establish) a financial foundation,” Thomas said. “… I really think that with the right teaching and the right commitment on his part, he could really do some phenomenal things.”

Though there are no formal music classes at Kohala High School, Case said he does have an aide that is also a singer, and during breaks, they spend time playing together and singing.

“I have extraordinary teachers and aides that can do anything,” he said of the staff at Kohala High School.

Beyond his music, one of Case’s many talents also includes his gift to inspire people of all ages. His TEDx Teen talk, which can be accessed on the TEDx Teen website, is entitled “See No Limits.”

“In my TED talk that I gave up in New York, it says this, ‘For my future, I want to be a world renowned artist,’” he said. “And it also says, ‘Yes, I even want to become a television producer. Impossible? I choose to believe not.’”

In North Hawaii, he has given talks to the students at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, and he gave the commencement speech at his alma mater, Waimea Middle School, in addition to his national talks over the past few summers in California, Utah, Wyoming, Washington and New York.

“I have been blind since I was an infant and it is a challenge for people, but I don’t know anything different,” Case said. “I call it life. Knowing that other teenage kids have their hopes and dreams about what they want to do in the future, to them I would say – challenging those youths that want to do more or be more – whatever they want to do, there is no limits. Because I see no limits.”

Through a kickstarter fundraiser last year, the teen was able to raise enough money to buy his own piano, so he can practice outside of church, and to create “Dare to Dream.” The CD features a wide array of music, from his own composition, “Crickets,” to pop music, such as “Beat It,” “What are you Doing for the Rest of Your Life, and “Over the Rainbow.” The CD also includes military marches such as “Battle Hymn of the Republic” to hymns, such as “The Prayer,” “Come Thou Font,” and “Amazing Grace.” He also performs a duet, “Crystallize” with violinist Lindsey Sterling.

Despite all of his success, Case stays grounded in North Hawaii and in his family and faith community. He still enjoys playing at the Mormon Chapel in Waimea, where he serves as the assistant organist and plays every other Sunday. Iwalani Case said that her grandson typically practices for three hours at a time at the chapel.

“My Papa Case cleans the chapel on Saturday. He would get everything set up, pick me up and take me to church and I would sit down at the organ, and I just play lovely pieces for him while he is cleaning,” Kuha’o said of his grandfather. “Papa works to music. I never forget this from my Papa – music makes you clean faster. It gets the job done faster and easier.”

Case’s biggest challenge now is to keep up with manual Braille printing when preparing his lectures. During school he has access to an Apex Communicator by Humanware, a specially designed machine for people who are blind that helps them store information. The device helps store all of his talks and school notes that he can easily use for speaking engagements and for class. The machine he uses, provided by his high school, costs about $5,000.

“Now this (Apex machine) is very special because before Kuha’o got that, he did everything through these Braille sheets, and he reads and writes Braille,” Iwalani Case said, holding books of the 11-inch square, thick sheets embossed with Braille.

When he travels, he cannot take the machine with him, so he has to manually convert his talks to Braille before he leaves.

Case is now fundraising for his own Apex machine that he can take on his talks, and he will also be making a new CD during his next trip to Utah in September.

For more information, visit Kuha’o’s Dream at www.KuhaosDream.com. His CD “Dare to Dream,” is available on iTunes or may be purchased through the information on his website. To view his TEDx Teen talk, visit the website at www.tedxteen.com.