As the saying goes, music is good for the soul. But did you know it’s also good for your health?

Studies show that music can alleviate pain, increase blood flow in the brain, and lower levels of stress-related hormones. It can also help sharpen memory and cognition, boost dopamine (the so-called “feel-good hormone”) and fend off depression.

Walter Bissett is no stranger to the transformative power of music—he’s reminded of it every time he hears the Maui Chamber Orchestra (MCO) play. “Classical music is especially powerful because of the wide range of emotions it can evoke,” he explained. “A classical music concert is one of the few places where people from all walks of life can come together as one and share an experience of sublime beauty every bit as powerful as the sunrise at Haleakala.”

Bissett, a Realtor-Salesperson with The Wailea Group, serves as president of the MCO’s board of directors. “MCO is one of the reasons we can say, ‘lucky we live Maui,’” he said. A deep love of classical music inspired Bissett to join the 501(c)3 nonprofit’s board nearly eight years ago, and since then, he’s seen the MCO and its vocal counterpart, the Maui Chamber Orchestra Chorus, grow by leaps and bounds–—and not just in terms of players, concerts and ticket sales. In 2016, the MCO introduced a program called CHIMES (Communities Helping in Music Education for Students) to raise funds to purchase instruments and other equipment for Maui youth, with the goal of nurturing a lifelong love of music. And in 2017, the MCO debuted its annual Youth Concerto Competition.

For many, the MCO and its programs are hidden gems yet to be discovered. “We find that most people don’t realize that there are two professional orchestras on Maui—the Maui Chamber Orchestra and the Maui Pops Orchestra,” Bissett said. “Though they share many players, they are completely separate organizations, with separate seasons. Maui Chamber Orchestra plays repertoire more in the standard classical genre, written for a smaller orchestra, and we usually perform once or twice a year with a chorus.”

Bissett encourages music lovers of all stripes to attend MCO’s concerts—and rest assured, you don’t have to be a classical music aficionado to enjoy them. “There’s a lot of wonderful classical music that most people have never heard of, and our musicians thrive on the opportunity to play a wide range of music,” he said. “We aim to make our concerts accessible to all, with $10 tickets for students and $22 tickets for seniors [through Kaunoa Senior Center] and our regular prices, $27 to $55, are also a great value.”

And Bissett says there’s plenty in store for concert-goers during the 2019-20 season. “We’re looking to mix things up a bit in the coming season, adding a few smaller concerts of chamber music in smaller venue, featuring just a handful of players, for a more intimate experience of live classical music,” he said. “This will also broaden the range of composers and works that we can offer to our audience.”

Bissett clearly relishes the opportunity to lend his time and talent (and at times, his tenor voice) to the MCO and its chorus. “To sit in the audience and watch the incredible talent right here in our midst…I always feel a great sense of appreciation for the part I play,” he said. “Live performance so outdoes a recording. It is truly magical.”

Bissett says concert ticket sales only cover 40 percent of the orchestra’s costs, so sponsors and donors help keep the music playing. The most effective way to support the MCO is to become a sustaining contributor and make a recurring monthly gift. To learn more about the Maui Chamber Orchestra, for more information about the MCO’s 2019-20 season, or to inquire about donor, sponsorship or volunteer opportunities, visit, email or call 214-6371.

By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – May 18, 2019

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