Idyllwild Arts: "Free"

Published : Tuesday, September 5, 2017 | 12:44 PM

The liberating stream of Nanauwe Vanderhoop’s music was foretold by her parents when they gave her the Wampanoag first and middle names Nanauwe and Ama: “freedom” and “river,” respectively.

“Music helped free me—helped lift a weight off my shoulders—when I went through hard times in eighth and ninth grades,” the Idyllwild Arts Academy Songwriting major says. “I still believe in using my voice affirmatively.”

Her unusual name (Nanauwe is pronounced Nuh-NAH-wee) reflects a distinctive heritage. Early contacts between her father’s Wampanoag people and Europeans date from the sixteenth century, when Old World merchants and fishermen explored the coast of present-day New England, including Martha’s Vineyard, where her family still lives. A friendlier European explorer, Nanauwe’s mother, met her father on vacation from the Netherlands on Martha’s Vineyard.

Nanauwe herself may undertake some musical explorations after graduating from the Academy next May.

“I’m considering a gap year so that I can travel to other countries. The more kinds of music I experience, the more sounds I can bring into my own compositions to make them richer. That goes for instruments, too: I sing and play piano and a little ukulele, but I’m also interested in learning guitar and drums. Music growth is exponential.”

She already has a rich base to build on, anchored mainly in soul, R & B, jazz, and hip hop.

“I listen to a lot of Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, and Lauren Hill. And Kendrick Lamar, who’s a newer artist.”

No matter what new traditions and instruments Nanauwe incorporates in her music, its free flow will be in the same positive direction.

“We already have a lot of hate in the world and we don’t need more. I recently wrote a song about the Syrian refugees. I want my music to help people with their struggles.”


Idyllwild Arts, 52500 Temecula Road, Idyllwild, CA 92549-0038, (951) 659-2171 or visit







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