Scotty McCreery

‘American Idol’ star at the MACC on Wednesday

Photo courtesy MACC

Winning the 10th season of “American Idol” in 2011 as a 17-year-old, Scotty McCreery went on to make chart history with his debut album, “Clear as Day.” Selling 197,000 copies the first week of release, he became the first country artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with a first recording, as well as the youngest man to open at the top of the chart with a debut release. “Clear as Day” ended up topping five separate Billboard charts and sold more than 1 million copies.

The first two singles from his debut (“I Love You This Big” and “The Trouble with Girls”) sold platinum, and he went on to win the New Artist of the Year Award at both the Academy of Country Music Awards and the American Country Awards in 2011.

” ‘Clear as Day’ draws deeply from country music traditions, offering its own take on time-honored storytelling themes of God, mama and coming of age,” noted USA Today. “It’s an album of summer romances, Friday night football and memories of first kisses that are fresh in the mind.”

As a 5-year-old growing up in North Carolina, McCreery received a book about Elvis Presley from his grandmother. It changed his life.

“One of the biggest guys I listened to growing up, and the guy that probably had the biggest influence to me, was the king of rock ‘n’ roll himself, Mr. Elvis Presley,” McCreery told an audience at the Grand Ole Opry in 2013, before launching into “That’s All Right (Mama).”

David Benoit will perform with the Maui Pops Orchestra at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Sunday. Photo courtesy MACC

Releasing his sophomore album, “See You Tonight,” in October 2013, McCreery once again topped the Billboard Country Albums chart. Taste of Country praised: “The 20-year-old’s follow-up to his post-‘American Idol’ debut leans into life’s exciting edges. The songwriting and production, especially the production, are sharp, but most exciting is the new sides of this singer fans see for the very first time.”

Soon after the album’s release, McCreery won the Breakthrough Artist Award at the 2013 American Country Awards.

Around the time he turned 21 in 2014, “Feelin’ It” became his second consecutive Top 10 hit. The single was later certified gold in 2015. That same year, McCreery released his single “Southern Belle” with an accompanying music video that topped Great American Country’s Top 20 Countdown.

McCreery released the book “Go Big or Go Home: The Journey Toward the Dream” last year. He writes: “God gave me a voice and America gave me a chance.”

* Scotty McCreery will perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. Tickets are $45, $65 and $85, with premium seats offered for $125, (plus applicable fees), and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.

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Fantastic win for Maui’s Kalani Pe’a, finally bringing a Best Regional Roots Album Grammy back to Hawaii, for his exceptional album “E Walea.”

Since the roots category was created in 2012 (after the Recording Academy abolished the award for Best Hawaiian Music Album), no Hawaiian artist had won until Sunday night. Previous Regional Roots nominees have included Maui musicians Keali’i Reichel, George Kahumoku Jr. and Kamaka Kukona. The regionally based traditional American music category includes Hawaiian, Native American, polka, zydeco and Cajun genres.

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Acclaimed Grammy-nominated pianist David Benoit returns to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Sunday for a “Winter Pops” concert with the Maui Pops Orchestra.

A versatile musician, Benoit’s eclectic path has embraced straight-ahead jazz, classical music, pop, smooth jazz and R&B. As a composer and conductor, his many credits include work with Leonard Bernstein, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Dresden Philharmonic. His television and film credits

include themes for “All My Children” and “Sisters,” and scores for “The Stars Fell on Henrietta,” “The Christmas Tree” and “Charlie Brown” specials.

Born to musician parents, Benoit studied theory and composition at El Camino College and took film scoring classes at UCLA.

“There was always music in my house and we all picked up instruments,” he recalls. “From the beginning, I had a passion for piano, I was obsessed with it.”

Among his recordings are “Heroes,” which paid tribute to jazz piano icons like Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and Dave Brubeck, and “Conversation,” which All About Jazz hailed as a “triumphant achievement.” On Benoit’s latest album, “Believe,” which celebrated the Christmas season, he was joined by jazz vocalist Jane Monheit, flautist Tim Weisberg and The All-American Boys Chorus. Benoit and Monheit previously collaborated on “2 in Love.”

Benoit has been nominated three times for Grammy Awards: Best Contemporary Jazz Performance for “Every Step of the Way” (1989); Best Large Ensemble Performance for the GRP All-Star Big Band (1996); and Best Instrumental Composition for “Dad’s Room” (2000).

Maui vocalist and sister-in-law Angela Benoit will be featured in several songs. Besides some of David Benoit’s original pieces, the concert will include music by George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Vince Guaraldi.

* David Benoit and the Maui Pops Orchestra present a “Winter Pops” concert at 3 p.m. Sunday in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $20, $35, $45 and $55, and half-price for students 18 and younger, (plus applicable fees). They are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.

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Pacific Whale Foundation’s World Whale Day on Saturday in Kihei offers another great opportunity to enjoy a range of talent.

Artists participating at the free event include John Cruz, Lily Meola, Dr Nat & Rio Ritmo, Maoli, Eli Mac, Haiku Hillbillys, Derick Sebastian, Bob Seger saxophonist Alto Reed, Darren Lee of “Burn’n Love” and Manutea Nui E.

* For more information, visit www.worldwhaleday.org.

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The Maui Outstanding Piano Amateurs Festival will be presented Friday and Saturday at the Wailuku Union Church, and on Sunday in Kula.

Featuring performances by various nonprofessional classical musicians, the festival program will include works by Chopin, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Mendelsohn, Brahms, Listz, Rachmaninov, Gershwin and others.

Free master classes will be held by Damira Feldman and Lotus Dancer from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday. Piano performances will be from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the church. Suggested donation is $15, with children and students admitted free. On Sunday evening, a “Piano Marathon” will be held in Kula by reservation only with a suggested $15 donation.

* For more information, call (305) 588-0083.

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Hailed as one of Africa’s rising stars, Dobet Gnahore will make her Maui debut in the MACC’s Castle Theater on Feb. 23.

Born in Ivory Coast, Gnahore was trained in the music and dance traditions of the Bete people by her father, a well-known performer in West Africa. Now living in France with her guitarist husband, Colin Laroche de Feline, she sings in a range of African languages including Bete, Fon, Baoule, Lingala, Malinke, Mina and Bambara, as well as French and English.

In 2010, she was awarded a Best Urban/Alternative Performance Grammy for her contribution to India.Arie’s song “Pearls,” from the album “Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics.”

“My collaboration with India.Arie opened doors in the United States, especially after the victory of the song ‘Pearls’ at the Grammy Awards,” Ganhore told Jeune Afrique. “It gave me more exposure and I sang ‘Palea’ as a duo with India.Arie in front of the Obama family in Washington.”

A captivating live performer, Ganhore has been widely acclaimed. “Take the energy of Lauryn Hill, the consciousness of India.Arie and the mystique of Erykah Badu and you get Dobet Ganhore,” praised the St. Louis American. And the Chicago Tribune noted: “It isn’t just the look but the power and range of Gnahore’s voice that is transfixing. And when she started to dance, it simply underlined why she has a reputation as being one of Africa’s most dynamic performers.”

“With the African languages that I sing, there are not many people who can understand,” Gnahore reports. “But emotion transcends borders, and it remains written inside the listener’s body.”

* Dobet Gnahore will perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $35 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.

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A bunch of new shows on the horizon coming to the MACC, including Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Colbie Caillat on April 7. Caillat has sold more than 6 million albums worldwide and more than 10 million singles.

Australian virtuoso guitarist Tommy Emmanuel will perform in October; and brilliant British comedian Eddie Izzard performs March 10.

* For more information, visit www.mauiarts.org.

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