Since his early teens, Curtis Kamiya has had the kind of clarity of purpose that many people dream of. “I’m obsessed with music in general — listening to it, playing it, seeing it live, etc.,” says Kamiya, who has known since around the seventh grade that music would be his life’s calling.

With a father who plays guitar and a mother who sings, as well as a curriculum at Punahou School that provided outlets for creative study, Kamiya was on his way. He pursued music and theater at the University of Puget Sound in Washington, where he met his future wife, Annie, when they were cast as love interests in an Anton Chekhov play.

Photo: Curtis Kamiya
Curtis Kamiya Music LLC. – Photo: Courtesy

Today the couple co-owns Curtis Kamiya Music LLC, a Kaka‘ako-based business where Kamiya teaches private lessons in guitar, voice and ‘ukulele to people of all ages and skill levels. His clients range from retirees who are excited to now have the time to learn about music, students wanting to compile an audition tape for arts school, and Miss Hawai‘i contestants. “I got a bunch of people come in and they just want to be better at karaoke,” he says. “They go with their friends every other week and they say: ‘I just want to sound better. I sound so bad.’ ”

Music can have kind of a magical quality for those who don’t consider themselves musically inclined, Kamiya says. “When I get a chance to teach people who are brand new to music, it’s like I’m giving somebody this special, secret gift,” he says with a laugh. “It’s a wonderful feeling because people realize it’s a learned skill like anything else. It’s like playing tennis. You take a little time and invest in it and you can do it. The feeling you get from it is wonderful, amazing. I feel very privileged to be able to introduce people to that, to get in touch with that feeling.” Kamiya and Annie, a singer and percussionist who also handles the sales and administrative side of the business, can be seen performing with their band, Mango Season, at weddings, birthday parties, corporate events and ticketed shows. The seven-piece band plays jazz, soul and funk along the lines of Earth,Wind & Fire, Chicago and Steely Dan. Mango Season released its second CD, “Point Panic,” in 2017. “That’s all original music,” says Kamiya, music director.

Twice a year, the couple marries their performing and teaching businesses by inviting students of Kamiya’s to perform with Mango Season at Hard Rock Cafe in Waikīkī. “It’s super fun,” he says. “The students get kind of a rock star moment. … We play whatever the student is interested in — Hawaiian or jazz or country, sometimes it’s loud rock ‘n’ roll. And they get a chance to see what it feels like to play with a real pro group. It’s a real treat for them and for me.”

About Mālama Loans

Almost 10 years ago an OHA Mālama Loan helped launch the Kamiyas’ teaching and performance businesses. “As you know, it takes some capital to just get off the ground,” Curtis Kamiya says. That early funding not only provided capital to rent a studio, buy equipment, instruments and a computer, as well as fund some staffi ng help,but also allowed them to build a credit history. “If you don’t have any business history no one wants to lend you money, which I totally understand, but OHA, they were interested in helping because of my Native Hawaiian ancestry, so
it came along at exactly the right time,” he says. “We have since been able to secure financing for other things because OHA extended us that credit in the beginning.” Learn more about OHA’s loan programs at