Conversations with staff, faculty and employees, beyond their jobs
David Del Rocco Social studies faculty member
Outside of his job teaching social studies in the Academy, David Del Rocco spends his time immersed in music, singing bass with the chorus for Hawaii Opera Theatre and with the Lutheran Church of Honolulu chorus. A true Renaissance man, Del Rocco speaks five languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Hawaiian and English) and also dances hula. We spoke to him about his penchant for opera and embracing his time outside of work.
When did you start singing opera, and how did that begin? In high school, I sang in the New Jersey State Opera chorus, which had kids from all over the state getting together and doing choruses from opera. But I wasn’t sold on opera. I had a roommate in college who was a total opera freak, and he convinced me to go with him. I didn’t like the first one I saw because they didn’t have the supertitles, so I didn’t know what was going on. But then we went to the ‘Magic Flute,’ and I liked it a lot more because I knew that story.
I started singing in the chorus for Hawaii Opera Theatre in 2005. I had some friends who were doing that, and they encouraged me. I’ve since sung in close to 30 operas; I usually do about two a year. But I’ve been singing my whole life. I’ve been singing for 31 years at Lutheran Church of Honolulu.
What do you love about the opera? It’s beautiful. The story lines can be ridiculous, but the music is beautiful, and it makes you really appreciate professional singers. We’re just a few feet away from them as they’re belting out this incredible aria.
I also just like singing, and the people there (from Hawaii Opera Theatre) are awesome. You get to put on costumes and act while you’re singing, so it’s a lot of fun. It’s like another life being with a bunch of people who perform. It’s very comfortable for me, because I really love performing. I’ve danced hula since 1980. I’m a storyteller. I enjoy making people happy.
Do you think your interest in performing helps you as a teacher? It keeps me more balanced. I don’t think it’s good to wrap your whole life around your job. I’m really proud of being a teacher here, but I don’t want to be just a teacher. I like to be a lot of different things.
Do your students or fellow teachers know you do this? The social studies department does, but outside of that, not so much. But a lot of teachers here have been coming to the opera for years, and now that they know I’m in it, they always ask me if I’m going to be in the show.
When the kids find out, they always want me to sing for them. And I always tell them, ‘If you want to hear me sing, you have to come to Blaisdell.’ I got some of the students in my last homeroom to come to one of my shows. They loved it; they brought me flowers. It was very cute.
What’s the favorite opera you’ve been in? ‘Turandot.’ It was my very first one in 2005, and then we did it again maybe six years ago. The chorus is very active. We’re on stage a lot, and the music is great. If you ever heard of ‘Nessun Dorma,’ it’s from that opera and it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.
You’re originally from New Jersey. Why did you come to Hawai‘i back in 1981? I was a flight attendant, and our training center was in Honolulu. After I went through training, I thought I’d like to live here for a while. I didn’t know anybody. I had never been west of Eastern Pennsylvania. I told my parents, ‘I’ll probably be home in a year or two.’ Now, it’s been 38 years.