Keane Ishii Actor, Singer and More


By Lindsey Scott
[email protected] 

Chorus and Guitar Teacher Keane Ishii leads a life outside of school full of singing and acting. Ishii uses his skills to participate in a variety of activities such as opera and onscreen acting. His career has touched many, but his passion for the arts started here in Mililani.

“I actually grew up in Mililani, went to Kipapa and back then they had a really active performing arts program under Evon Toma.  She was fantastic. I think from fourth grade, we did stage productions. And then after that, I actually didn’t do theatre for awhile. I was in marching band (here). But in college I started singing and I was in plays, then I started the opera,” said Ishii.

Although participating in numerous activities makes for a jampacked schedule, Ishii embraces it and puts his best foot forward into all his work. “I was reflecting that I’m not home very much. I just thought, (I) go in and drop the stuff off and then tidy up and then grab a bite and then I’m off to a rehearsal. It’s a lot of fun though and I think I feel lucky being able to do it because, for one thing, the opportunity to do it is wonderful,” said Ishii. Casting Director Akemi Bischoff added, “He’s like a triple threat. I mean he acts, he sings and I don’t know if he dances, but I’m assuming he probably does. (He) has good energy. (You) know, you can tell, (because) he works with children, (he) has the spirit of service, which I think you can (see) when he plays a soldier (in the) 442nd (and) 100th Battalion.”

While acting and singing are important parts of Ishii’s life, his students are always at the forefront of his mind. “(all) the way through high school and college I was one of those very busy people, so it’s the same. When I’m at a rehearsal for the opera, which is starting pretty soon, there’s a little bit of down time, so at that time, I’m typing things for school. And then during lunch over here, I’m never just sitting around, I’m always planning something,” said Ishii. “And I guess as a teacher I feel like doing, you know like being part of what’s actually (being taught), I think a lot of young students who want to perform or want to do (those kind of things), kind of inform how I teach them. So I’m always teaching (what) you’re going to use (in)adult life.” Senior Amelia Bassett added, “He cares so much for all of his students. We come to choir or guitar because we love music, and Ishii creates an environment where we can learn and have fun doing what we love. And outside of class, he sets up activities for choir such as socials and choir camp, which are super fun.”

Ishii hopes that, even in 10 years, singing and acting will continue to be part of his life and he will be able to use that knowledge to help his students. “I am auditioning for movies, so I think that, (film) is going to be a bigger part of my future, which is exciting. It’s a totally different kind of acting, so it takes some getting used to, but it’s fun,” said Ishii. “This past weekend we had a high school chorus festival, so there’s 390 kids and 17 schools. And I was able to see, I know my choir is doing really well, but we were able to see how they are compared to the others. We’re doing really well, so I think in 10 years it’ll be even better. In the seven years I’ve been here, we’ve really progressed a lot. I think that they’re gonna be even better.”

Ishii’s career has touched the hearts of many people around him. “Keane is an incredibly nice and friendly guy. He is an integral part in creating an open atmosphere where everyone feels safe and welcome. The biggest detriment to making music (or doing anything else) is fear. In the rehearsal process it is much better to make a brave mistake than to tread cautiously, half-singing or skipping notes all together. Keane’s humor and openhearted nature helps put people at ease so that no one is afraid to mess up as we begin learning a new song. We make mistakes, we laugh, we keep going,” said Karol Nawicki, a friend of Ishii. In terms of contributing musically, Keane’s voice is extremely flexible and he’s an excellent reader, so even though he is primarily a baritone, I sometimes make him sing tenor or even alto if someone is sick or cannot make a show. He is also our official percussionist whenever we have a piece that requires a drum, shakers, or a tambourine.” Bischoff added, “(Knowing Ishii) does confirm, again to me that, Hawaii talent is everywhere.  You know, when you put (advertisements) out there, people respond and I happen to find talent from somebody who teaches at school and he has a day job as a teacher.  So,   it confirms to me that I need to look further out to talent from all aspects of walks of life in Hawaii.”

Ishii will continue to audition for roles on TV and movies, like “Go For Broke,” and participate in other activities such as opera while simultaneously sharing what he has learned with his students.