From Rapa Nui To Cleveland And Back
Mahani Teave grew up on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and left at age 9 to pursue her dream of being a classical pianist. She studied in Chile, and on her way to audition for a music school in Cologne, she attended a master class by CIM faculty member Sergei Babayan, whose mastery so impressed her that she came to Cleveland instead. After CIM came more study in Berlin and then at age 30, on the cusp of an international career, Mahani set aside her performing activities to return to Rapa Nui and its children – both, she felt, in desperate need of “rescue.”
She created Toki Rapa Nui, the island's first music school (free to all students), which, in addition to music lessons, nurtures a consciousness about their unique and disappearing culture. Toki, you should know, is the Rapa Nui word for "tool." The school building itself is an ecological wonder and model of sustainability, using recycled materials (tens of thousands of tires, glass bottles, and cans to make the structure), solar panels for energy, and water collectors, with a large organic, agro-ecological initiative contributing toward the Island's much-needed food sovereignty. And at the school the students actually live environmental sustainability, food sovereignty, and cultural and ancestral preservation, strengthening their intellectual and emotional development and gaining an awareness and appreciation of their island and our planet.
In 2018 software magnate and rare-violin collector David Fulton visited the school while traveling and heard the kids, and Mahani herself on a battered upright piano, and called her playing “totally unexpected, uplifting, and deeply moving – a musical feast.” Fulton insisted Mahani make her first recording, giving her an international platform for her work. He brought her to Seattle where she recorded Rapa Nui Odyssey with a Grammy-winning engineer at Benaroya Hall. And even better, all proceeds from sales of the album go to Toki Rapa Nui. The two-disc set is featured on WCLV in May. Fifteen-time Emmy award-winning producer and director John Forsen was so inspired by Mahani and her story, he made a film about it, Song of Rapa Nui, narrated by Audra McDonald and released world-wide on Amazon Prime.
In April, WCLV's Bill O'Connell had a Zoom session with Mahani Teave 5,000 miles away on Rapa Nui. They talked about many things. Her piano heroes include names from the past like Emil Gilels, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Ignaz Friedman, Josef Hofmann, and Dinu Lipatti. One of her very favorite recordings is by a violinist, Jascha Heifetz! Bill began by asking Mahani how she came to study at CIM...