This month we shine the Spotlight ON! Justin Firmeza.
Justin Firmeza is a relative newcomer to the Hawaiian steel guitar fraternity, but don't let this fool you. Justin is a very skilled steel guitarist and plays with special technique and feeling that is only his. Some may have seen his prerecorded videos as a performing NextGen steel guitarist on Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase broadcasts.
Born, raised, and currently residing in Fremont, California, 19-year old Justin is currently a college student at San Jose State University, in his third year and majoring in Jazz Studies. He is also a professional entertainer.
Justin developed an interest in music at an early age.
"When I think about it now, it feels like I've always loved playing and being a part of the sound—like music is a big part of me, and I'm blessed to be a part of it in return," says Justin.
He continues, "When I was 3, my grandpa came home from one of the garage sales he loved going to and he brought me an old, small digital piano keyboard. He popped some batteries in and laid the keyboard at my feet. I knelt down to the floor and touched the keys out of curiosity. And when I pressed down on the keys, they made a bright sound; That changed my life forever. From then, I learned piano by listening and watching."
"It's a blessing that my musical journey has continued this far, and that's all thanks to the motivation of my community, my parents, and my teachers: Uncle Patrick Landeza and Kumu Alan Akaka," says Justin.
Justin met Patrick Landeza when he entered high school. At that time Landeza was a teacher but is now the school's Coordinator of Auxiliary Programs and Community Outreach.
As a freshman, Justin would hang out in his teacher's office and Landeza would play all different kinds of music on his computer for Justin to listen to, including jazz, R&B, gospel, bluegrass, and Hawaiian music, especially the songs of Uncle Dennis Kamakahi. Landeza always encouraged Justin to listen and be open to all kinds of music.
Justin recalls, "When I graduated from high school in 2020, he gave me a lap steel guitar as a present and introduced me to Kumu Alan Akaka. I learned steel guitar with Kumu over Zoom and I fell more in love with Hawaiian music and the sound of the steel guitar."
Justin currently owns two steel guitars—an 8-string Signature Herb Remington steel, and an 8-string SX sunburst steel with a humbucker pickup installed. Says Justin, "My favorite is the Remington; It has a nice sustain with a full-sounding tone. The SX definitely gets plenty of use though, particularly when I play at my university."
"I think I'd consider myself to be a 'piano and steel guitar player'," remarks Justin. "I do have a little bit of experience on some other instruments like ‘ukulele, electric bass, and different types of percussion."
This video is of Justin playing "Hula Breeze," a presentation in one of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase livestream broadcasts.
The video can also be seen on YouTube.
This feature is a snapshot of the complete tribute that is posted on the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase website. See the complete tribute here.Feature
2023 Festivals and Workshops
2023 Hawaiian Steel Guitar Showcase Livestream Broadcasts
HIMELE is a Hawai‘i non-profit corporation that supports music enrichment and education for people of all ages. Our purpose is to educate, promote, and perpetuate Hawaiian music, Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian musical instruments.
Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival
Maui Steel Guitar Festival
Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week
Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Festival
Japan-Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
Kona Steel Guitar Festival