John Kolivas, one of Hawaiʻi’s premier bassists, is also known as an educator and composer.
John’s mother, Dolly Lott was a classical piano teacher and his father Christopher Kolivas a jazz saxophonist. John attended Punahou School from first to 12th grade where he was nurtured in Hawaiian music by Nālani Olds Napoleon and played in the school orchestra and jazz band.
John became a professional musician in 1979, the year he graduated from Punahou, performing in pit orchestras at the Diamond Head Theater and with visiting national tours at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. In 1980, John was hired to play bass and work as Musical Director for the Keola & Kapono Beamer show in Waikīkī, which began his long association with Keola. Relocating to New York City in 1982, John performed in musical theater shows on tour and on Broadway in addition to jazz. He also studied bass with Homer Mensch at the Juilliard School.
In 1990 John returned to Hawaiʻi with his wife Deanna. In 1997 he successfully auditioned with the Hawaiʻi Symphony (formerly Honolulu Symphony) in which he has performed to the present. In 2001, John formed the critically acclaimed Honolulu Jazz Quartet, which has recorded three albums and currently performs on Oʻahu.
In his jazz career, John has had the privilege of performing with jazz giants including Herb Ellis, Delfeayo Marsalis, George Benson, and many others. He has also backed vocalists Lea Salonga and Wayne Newton.
Having a love for Hawaiian music, John has enjoyed performing with Keola Beamer, Kapono Beamer, Winona Beamer, Raiatea Helm, Teresa Bright, Jake Shimabukuro, and many others.
As a kumu of bass, John has taught Hawaiian, classical, and jazz bass at Kamehameha Schools, Punahou School, ʻIolani School, Moanalua Middle and High Schools, and Roosevelt High School. He has also taught workshops in connection with the Hawaiʻi International Jazz Festival with pianist Makoto Ozone and guitarist Larry Coryell.
John views it a great privilege to join Keola Beamer and share his knowledge of the bass and Hawaiian music with students at the Aloha Music Camp!