I received an email this afternoon from a Kailua High School classmate saying that Mr. Shigero Hotoke passed away on Saturday, February 20th.
Mr. Hotoke was the choir director at Kailua High School for many years. I believe he started the choir program when the school first opened in 1954. I was privileged to be in his Acappella Choir, a class of 30 or so students, during my senior year of high school.
My family moved from Honolulu to Kailua during the summer between my junior and senior year. My younger sister and I continued going to school at Kaimuki for the first month or so of that particular school year. It was a long commute getting from Kailua into Honolulu on a taxi. We then had to catch a city bus to get to school. After school we would go to Waikiki where my mom and one of her cousins had a dressmaking shop. It was such a long day that Mom wanted us to transfer to Kailua.
I was really upset that we had to transfer schools. I had attended school with a lot of my classmates at Kaimuki from the 7th grade. I discovered that I only needed classes in English, History and Math in order to have enough credits to graduate. That left me with three periods to fill. The counselor asked me if I could sing or liked to sing. I told her I did. There was an opening in Mr. Hotoke's 5th period which was the Acappella class.
My first day of class, Mr. Hotoke had me do the scales a couple of times and then told me "to take a seat". I sat in the 3rd seat in the soprano section. Mr. Hotoke was an excellent teacher, he made each student feel special. He was a firm believer in that everyone could sing if they just tried. He was dearly loved by all of his students. There was a total of 300 students in the entire choir.
In the spring of 1960, he took 100 students to the island of Kauai for 2 concerts. We stayed with different families from the school where we gave an evening concert. My roommate and I stayed with a Japanese family.
Mr. Hotoke was very active in the community and sang with several different groups which he continued after his retirement. The Acappella Choir became known as the Madrigals and each year he took a group somewhere to perform. I believe they traveled to Japan as one of their trips.
In 2004, Kailua High celebrated their 50th anniversary. A Christmas concert was presented the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend featuring alumni from the choirs of the school's 50 year history. I heard about it through classmate emails and knew I wanted to participate when I read that Mr. Hotoke would be directing. I don't think I will forget the experience and the thrill to be able to sing again under Mr. Hotoke's direction. My husband and I still talk about that trip.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Hotoke after the concert telling him how much it meant to me to have been in one of his classes. I think I would have dropped out of high school because of the family move my senior year. Being in his class convinced me to stay in school and complete my senior year. After I shared my story he gave me a big hug and we both had tears in his eyes.
I don't remember a lot of my teachers during my 12 years of school, however I do remember Mr. Hotoke and the impact he made on my last year of high school. I have no doubt that the many students who were privileged to be one of his students would probably have the same things to say about him.
He will be greatly missed by those who had the privilege of crossing paths with him.
Me ke aloha pumehana, Mr. Shigero Hotoke.
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