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Molokai Teens to Play in HI Youth Symphony

photo courtesy of Erlie May Scherling

For the Scherlings, music is foremost a family affair.

Alena, 19, and Mattayus Scherling, 15, were introduced to violin and cello back in 2017 after their mom saw an ad for free music classes in The Molokai Dispatch.

Now, Alena and Mattayus are the first Molokai kids to be invited to play with the Hawaii Youth Symphony. They will be performing with the youth symphony’s top orchestra, Youth Symphony I, on Feb. 19 at Maui’s Castle Theater.

The Scherlings started their music careers on borrowed instruments at Kaunakakai Elementary School under the tutelage of Bob Underwood. Now, they’ve continued to learn with the Molokai Community Strings Class, and from each other.

“They teach each other,” said their mom, Erlie May Scherling. “I love it.”

Alena plays the violin, and Mattayus plays the cello, but also the violin and electric guitar. The duo trains for at least an hour every day. Right now, they are working on pieces by the composer Johann Sebastian Bach, including the first Bache Suite and violin duets that they can play together.

Erlie May Scherling explained that she’s impressed with her kids’ dedication to the music.

“Not a lot of kids stick with it,” she said. “It’s so different.”

Erlie May Scherling also took violin lessons alongside her kids at Kaunakakai Elementary.

“[At first] I didn’t know adults could play and join the after-school program,” she explained.

Now, classical music has ingrained itself in the family. Between chance run-ins with famed cellist Yo-yo Ma at the Molokai Airport, and performances at the Malama Market and school fairs, the Scherlings have made classical music a major part of their lives.

Lauren Foster runs the Molokai Community Strings Class, of which the Scherlings are a part.

The group offers free classes for violin, viola and cello, with free loaner instruments available for anyone in the Molokai community.

“There are a lot of benefits to playing music,” said Foster. “Evidence points to playing music as a major mental health benefit. My goal is to help make group music learning available island wide.”

“I would love to see the schools here incorporate music into the school day rather than keep it as an end of day activity,” she added.

Molokai residents interested in learning classical music can check out beginner’s classes at Kaunakakai Elementary School Mondays and Wednesdays starting at 2:30 p.m. Likewise, a mixed class of beginners and intermediate players takes place at Kaulapu’u School Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 3 p.m. No prior experience or instruments needed.

Alena and Mattayus Scherling will be fundraising for their trip to Maui at the next Malama Nite Market on Feb. 9.


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