First Annual Jimmy Borges Jazz Festival at the Blue Note
On July 30, 2017 friends, family and fans attended the First Annual Jimmy Borges Jazz Festival at the Blue Note. Talented musicians and performers included scholarship recipient Charles Mukaida, Shari Lynn, Loretta Ables Sayre and many more favorites! The lively event raised $9,000 for the Jimmy Borges Scholarship.
A few months before his death in May 2016, legendary Hawai‘i entertainer Jimmy Borges told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that his 60 years of success on stages around the world wasn’t the product of a good voice. “It’s not just making sounds,” he explained. “Many, many singers nowadays think it’s about making beautiful sounds, but it’s like chewing gum. The taste is there, then the taste is gone. When I sing a song that tells a good story, they’ll remember it 30 years from now.”
When Jimmy had a recurrence of the cancer he’d beaten years before, he chose not to pursue treatment, opting instead to exit life’s stage as gracefully as he’d entertained audiences in concert halls and jazz clubs through most of his life. His friends and family established a scholarship in his honor, supporting University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa students pursuing degrees in vocal music performance.
The first-ever recipient of the Jimmy Borges scholarship is Charles Mukaida, who was awarded the scholarship for the 2016-2017 school year. Charles shares Jimmy’s attitude about excellent performance. Studying the backstories and contexts of the music he sings adds layers to the story, he says, citing Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto as an example. The composer’s two children each died before reaching the age of two, and his wife succumbed to illness when she was 26, lending depth to an opera whose title character also loses a daughter.
“It’s this kind of depth of understanding we must have of the music in order to perform it well,” said Charles. “At first, I said this was a lot more than I meant to get myself into, but as I learned more about the music, I fell in love with music all over again. It’s like slicing into a chocolate cake and discovering that there’s chocolate mousse inside!”
“Sharing these stories with audiences makes me happy,” Charles said, “and when people tell me after a performance that the story was like therapy for them, helping them think about their own lives, that’s the best feeling.”
The 2010 graduate of Roosevelt High School always meant to study music, but he took some time away from school to work as a flight attendant, a job he maintains in order to pay for his schooling. The Borges Scholarship has had a great impact, helping to cover his tuition and allowing him to focus more on his development as a singer, but to say it’s helped him financially doesn’t suffice. He says, “I spoke with Jimmy before he died, and he let me know what this scholarship meant to him. It pushed me even more to respect and honor someone as great, generous, and compassionate as Jimmy Borges.
“I would love to be a professional operatic performer, but even if I don’t become famous or sing in the biggest opera houses, I can be happy sharing music with others. That’s all I really need.”