Meet Keenan Kamalani Kamae, Our Featured Volunteer from Chicago!

Get to know our volunteers!

Do you volunteer at a specific hospital? I volunteer at all current Chicago facilities: Lurie Children’s Hospital, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, and Chicago Methodist Senior Services.

How long have you been volunteering with Musicians On Call? I have been volunteering for over 1 year! Though my journey started 2 years ago beginning with email communication, online training, and orientation.

Are you a volunteer guide or musician? Musician

What is your favorite song to play for patients? Over the Rainbow (the version by late Hawaiian singer Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole) is always a favorite and a huge hit with everyone! I have a setlist I keep in my back pocket with lots of favorites for the kids (Old McDonald, Twinkle Twinkle/ABC medley, and any Hawaiian/hula song that transports the patients to Hawaii and shares the spirit of ALOHA with them).

Have you ever been part of an impromptu jam session with patients or family in a hospital room? Yes. Every chance I get I encourage patients, family members, and staff (including my guides) to join in with singing, clapping, or even dancing hula! It’s so infectious that my guides often know the words and the motions to the songs by the end of our program together.

Do you perform anywhere else besides with MOC? Yes, I have been a part of a four-piece authentic Hawaiian band here in the Chicagoland area for almost 10 years, and we perform just about anywhere and everywhere in the Midwest. If your party or event needs some live Hawaiian music, we’ll bring Hawaii to you!.

What is your occupation outside of MOC? I have been an international Japanese speaking flight attendant for United Airlines for 21 years, and have traveled with my ukulele all around the world, spreading ALOHA everywhere I go.

Do you have any hidden talents? I speak Japanese fluently and read and write basic Japanese.

What is your story? What connects you with music and why do you volunteer with MOC? I come from a very musical Hawaiian family of siblings and parents that grew up singing and performing together, grandparents that also played Hawaiian music and entertained for years and extended family and relatives who have done the same for many years. 21 years ago this month when I finished flight attendant training with United Airlines (realizing that my relocation to Chicago from Hawai’i meant possibly not returning home to Hawai’i for a very long time) I called my mom right away and told her that I needed a ‘ukulele to keep Hawai’i in and with me, so long as I would be so far from home. This began my journey of strengthening my Hawaiian identity and I actually started to teach myself to play the ‘ukulele. I grew up watching and listening to my brother, my father, and my grandmother plays and sings – the old Hawaiian way of learning. But I never really picked up the ‘ukulele until I moved here. Years later with my ‘ukulele skills improved and my Hawaiian identity strong, it was time to focus on another aspect of my Hawaiian culture: sharing my Aloha. I have been a musician with my Hawaiian band for almost 10 years playing for audiences young and old, large festival crowds and audiences of one. I felt it was time to share my talents through music with others in need, with no thought for monetary reward. Two years ago along came MOC, the perfect fit. I could not WAIT to get started (as Dana Sones, Nicole Lake Rivera, and Kelli Bruno can attest to!).

What makes MOC different from your other volunteer experiences? I volunteer with MOC because it is unlike ANY other experience (volunteer or otherwise), with rewards that truly cannot be measured. Each experience I have every time I volunteer just makes me want to volunteer more and more! After my last program, I went home and signed up for 5 more programs!

Has your life changed because of your experience with Musicians On Call? Being a volunteer MOC musician has brought such peace, joy, happiness in my life, something that I strive to bring to those I play and sing for at the bedside. The people I have met through MOC (patients, family, staff, other MOC musicians and guides, support MOC staff from across the country) have each made a difference in my life and encourage me to continue to share ALOHA with everyone!

What is your favorite #MOCmoment? WAY too many to choose from. But I’ll share one from my most recent program: Just a few measures into the song I randomly (not really, since I try very hard to pick a song that would reach them and touch them) chose to play, it turned into a duet as I let the patient take the lead on the song, and I joined her in singing harmony through the end of the song. Then with a huge smile, she said that was her favorite song (Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love) and that it made her day!.

Do you want to help us deliver the healing power of music? Apply to volunteer as a guide or a musician today!


Smiling musician volunteer poses next to happy patient.

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