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by Dr. John Kearns

HPU’s music program has exploded in size and recognition over the past six years, and much of the credit goes to the two women at the heart of music at HPU: Susan Duprey, director of choral activities, and Teresa McCreary, director of Instrumental Music.

What connects them goes beyond their passion to make HPU a world-renowned place for music. They’re also sisters-in-law who grew up in homes filled with music.

Duprey is the daughter of John McCreary, St. Andrew’s Cathedral organist and choir director for more than 35 years, and ‘Iolani School choir director for 25 years. A graduate of ‘Iolani, Duprey thought she would try something other than music in college and majored in Spanish. This led to studies abroad in Spain and Mexico, where she had the opportunity to perform the opera Aida in a bullfighting ring.

Duprey finally accepted that music was her destiny, and attended graduate school at Westminster Choir College in New Jersey.

After Sept. 11, 2001, Duprey began thinking about how music could bridge cultural divides. HPU–with students from every state and more than 100 countries–immediately came to mind as the ideal place to foster cultural understanding through international music. She contacted HPU President Chatt Wright and within months was named HPU’s first director of Choral Activities.

She first created the International Chorale, a choir open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. She then formed the International Vocal Ensemble (IVE), limited to 28 students who audition and may be eligible for scholarships. Since 2002, the IVE has performed at the prestigious Carnegie Hall, and the 250th celebration of Mozart’s birth in Austria.

For students, the long hours of rehearsal time are an investment that pays off in performance. Kanoe Shelton, a psychology major from Mililani, is new to the International Vocal Ensemble this year. Her high school choir director suggested she audition for the IVE. Shelton said she was thrilled when she heard the news that she’d been selected.

“ It’s such a privilege and honor to represent HPU while doing something I love,” she said. “So whenever I feel like it’s just too much–school, family, the choir–I remind myself that there’s someone out there who would love to be in my place.”

She and fellow IVE member Davinia Yalimaiwai, a pre-med senior and McKinley High School graduate, agree the Hawaiian and gospel numbers are the most fun to sing, in part because the choir gets to move a lot more.

Yalimaiwai describes the highlight of her time in the IVE as a moment in an Austrian courtyard where The Sound of Music was filmed. The choir was moved to sing a Hawaiian song, and people came out to listen. It was a “chicken-skin” moment, but not the only one.

“ Susan Duprey feels deeply about the music,” said Yalimaiwai. “Sometimes she’ll stop us when we’re singing in a foreign language and tell us more about the words we’re singing, which turn out to have such an emotional impact that we can see tears in Susan’s eyes.”

McCreary grew up in South Carolina, the daughter of music professors. By high school graduation, she had learned the cello, oboe, saxophone, piano, and other percussion instruments. She majored in music education at the University of Kansas, was a cellist at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Austria, and completed her master’s degree in cello performance at the University of Texas. Along the way, she played cello with two folk guitarists at Austin coffee houses where country performer Lyle Lovett played.

A vacation to Hawai‘i led to a career as an orchestra teacher. She spent 16 years at ‘Iolani School, where she met John McCreary and his son Kendall, who became her husband, and her future musical partner, Duprey. In the midst of teaching and taking the orchestra to perform at Carnegie Hall and other venues, she completed her doctorate in music education.

In 2005, McCreary joined HPU as director of Instrumental Music and assistant professor of music. At that point, the University had two choirs and a band that played mainly at athletic events, but no orchestra. She split the band into three programs: concert band, jazz ensemble, and athletic band. Last fall, she recruited students from local high schools and brought in former ‘Iolani students to create the HPU Chamber Orchestra. Band and orchestra students are eligible for a variety of scholarships.

Phil Hightower, an advertising senior and Farrington High School graduate who plays the baritone sax, said McCreary’s instruction took them back to the basics.

“ For me,” he said, “It was about learning to control your voice. Now I think about my tone and how it affects everybody else’s playing. Dr. McCreary showed us how to blend together as a single voice.”

Mandy Llamedo, a pre-physical therapy senior and St. Francis High School graduate, said she transferred to HPU from the University of Hawai‘i because of the band program.

“ It’s awesome here,” she said. “I’m playing with some of the best musicians I’ve ever met. Dr. McCreary really challenges us. She says she knows we’re already good, but she’s here to help us get even better by constantly setting her standards higher.”

The Chamber Orchestra debuted at HPU’s Winter Concert in December. HPU’s music program had arrived. For IVE alto Shelton, that was the best moment of her first year in the choir.

“ You know that feeling when you’re feeling the best you can possibly feel? That’s how it felt to sing with the Chamber Orchestra. I knew we were part of something great.”

In June 2008, the International Vocal Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra will head to China for cultural exchanges and performances. HPU, known for bringing the world to Hawai‘i, will once again and also taking music from Hawai‘i to the world.


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