Monday, November 18, 2019

Band director honored by YWCA of Kauai for exemplary leadership

Sarah Tochiki named one of Na Wahine Alakai O Kauai (Women Leaders of Kauai)

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Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School band director Sarah Tochiki was honored this weekend by the YWCA of Kauai as one of Na Wahine Alakai O Kauai (Women Leaders of Kauai). She was recognized in a ceremony at the Kauai Marriott Resort alongside former Kauai County mayor and councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and Waipa Foundation Executive Director Stacy Sproat-Beck.

"This night is really special," said Tochiki. "I feel really honored. I feel really humbled to be recognized as a woman leader here on Kauai and I'm grateful that the YWCA is honoring me and the other two honorees tonight."

In addition to her duties at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, Tochiki serves as the director of the Kauai Community College Instrumental Music Program, which includes the Wind Symphony, Jazz Ensemble and Symphony.

In 2016, she co-led the Kauai All-Island Band to be the first band from Hawaii to march in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C. The KAIB is made up of middle school through community college aged students. In 2017, the KAIB traveled to the Holiday Bowl Game and Parade in San Diego, where they won third place in the field show competition and first place in the parade competition in their division.  The band's next trip will be to Japan in June 2020.

Annually, Tochiki also coordinates the Kauai Solo and Ensemble Festival and the Kauai Youth Honor Band. She most recently launched the Kauai Opio and Keiki Orchestra, a free program for aspiring violin, viola, and cello players, in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club-Lihue Clubhouse. 

In 2011, School Band and Orchestra Magazine, a national publication, named her as one of the nation’s “50 Directors Who Make a Difference.”

"Our students deserve everything that we can give them, and I will do whatever it takes to make sure that they get the best possible experience that they can," Tochiki said. "Teachers, you know, we only see them from 7:45 to 2:45 every day, but sometimes, the really dedicated ones—and I have colleagues around the state that are the same way—the really dedicated ones will go beyond the work day and really put in effort for their students with whatever kinds of activities, whether it's an activity like the Kauai All-Island Band, or even just tutoring after school, all of it is important for child development.

She added, "Music is universal. Music unites us. Music is what helps to make us human. So it's important that part of their education includes arts education, includes music education, art, theater, whatever we can give them that they can explore the creative side of themselves."

Tochiki's band students performed several numbers at Friday's ceremony, and many colleagues were also in attendance.

"(She's) been someone I can go to for advice, just someone I can speak to about everyday matters. I have student concerns, I have union concerns with things that are happening at school, and she's just someone I can turn to. She's amazing," said Elias Gonzales, a fellow music teacher at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle. "Sarah has so much on her plate. Not only does she handle the band, the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School band, she's handling Kauai All-Island Band. She's working at Kauai Community College, working with the symphonic band there, the orchestra there. She's doing things in the community with the kids. During the summer, she travels and works with bands in other places around the world. She's amazing. She has so much going on in her life, I don't know how she juggles all that."

"There are so many that I work with that are deserving of awards as well," Tochiki said in her acceptance speech. "No one gets into teaching to become rich and famous. We make no money. But we work tirelessly every day because we want to make sure that the lives of our students are better, and my colleagues are my inspiration and they're my encouragement to keep going."

This year, Tochiki was elected vice president of the Kauai Chapter of the Hawaii State Teachers Association. In addition to coordinating the chapter's Institute Day, the single largest professional development day on the school calendar, she also plays a key role in the chapter's annual back-to-school bash and other union gatherings.

"I also want to thank my union colleagues with the Hawaii State Teachers Association for being here," Tochiki said in her speech. "HSTA advocates for quality public education for every single child in our state. Our union provides me with the backing and strength to stand up for what is best for our schools, that even one person can achieve some, but together we can achieve a lot, and I really want to thank HSTA for what they do every day for our public school system."

HSTA Kauai Chapter President Caroline Freudig said, "I've gotten to know Sarah in the last several years just through being in HSTA and at the same time just having seen things that she does with her love of the arts, and I think being a band director is something that she has perpetuated her love for through her students, and you can see that. You can see that through everything she does, and everything she says about it, and everything that the students portray and years later are still coming up to her and thanking her, and I think that is something really special as a teacher."

Tochiki received her Bachelor of Music degree in Instrumental Music Education and Trumpet Performance from the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music and her Master of Music Education degree from the College of Fine Arts at Boston University.

She was born and raised on Oahu.

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