After 75 years of performing, Hawaii’s First Woman of Song, Emma Veary, continues to share with others the sweetness of her voice. A legendary vocalist, Veary followed her passion at a very young age, tuning the gift that was given so naturally to her.
“I grew up with so many great musicians from Kapahulu. I started singing when I was 5; it was a way of life for me. Now I am 81, and I say I am going to stop, but I cannot,” she says with a laugh.
A courageous young girl, Veary traveled alone to New York City at age 14 to follow her dream of singing opera.
“I discovered Broadway, too. That was the time of Carousel, Oklahoma and all the shows of that era. I decided, after seeing all the legends, I wanted to perform all types of music,” she says. It is that adventurous spirit that allowed Veary to perform all over the world throughout her remarkable career.
“When the movie Hawaii was released, a group of us traveled throughout Europe promoting the movie. It was such a ball. We went to Germany, Spain, Switzerland, England,” says Veary, who graced MidWeek’s cover Nov. 6, 1985.
“Music really is the universal language. It can go anywhere and fit in,” she adds. “That is why I was able to travel the world singing.”
Veary reminisces about performing at home, expressing to tourists and locals alike the culture of Hawaii through song. She holds close her time in the Monarch Room at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, and at Halekulani’s House Without A Key, where she headlined in the 1970s.
“The Halekulani was a very interesting time in my life. I had given up singing for a time to raise my children when I started performing there. I loved the scholarship crowd that came to visit. They couldn’t afford to get in, so they listened on the beach,” she recalls. “I never took a night off. I always had to go to work in case any of the scholarship crowd could come in that night.”
Veary’s vibrance and zest to sing and perform have not faded a bit. On May 1, she performed in the Brothers Cazimero Lei Day concert on Maui, where she’s been living since the early 1990s. On June 5 at 7 p.m., PBS Hawaii will premiere Hawaiian Airlines Presents Na Mele: Emma Veary at Halekulani, showcasing Veary’s one-night return to the beachside stage, where she sang alongside daughters Robyn and Noelani.
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