Home | Timelines | First Years | Collections | Historical | Albums | Archaeology | PVSA | About |

>> Home >> Collections >>MacKenzie

>> Tandy Ka‘ohuokaleponi MacKenzie


    Tandy Allen Ka‘ohuokaleponi MacKenzie was born on March 10, 1892 to Nellie Reuter MacKenzie and James Francis MacKenzie. James, a Scotsman from Prince Edward Isle in Canada, died of a heart attack in 1891, three months before Tandy’s birth. Tandy Allen MacKenzie was named after James’ friend, Dr. Tandy Allen. They lived in Hana, Maui.
    After her first husband’s death, Nellie left her first two children, Frank and Tandy, with her parents who owned a plantation in Hana. Her mother was a pure Hawaiian woman and her father was a German-Hawaiian man. Nellie moved from Hana to Honolulu, re-married and had several more children. Nellie, who had a remarkable singing voice, was known as the Nightingale of Maui. Ka Makani Ka‘ili Aloha was written for her by Matthew Kane and Tandy often sang it to close his recitals.

Kamehameha School for Boys

preparatory department    Tandy’s older brother, Frank, was sent to the Kamehameha Schools Preparatory Department in Honolulu when he was eight years old. Tandy missed him. Auntie Annie, Nellie’s sister had returned from California to Hana and told him one day that his real father might be Dr. Allen. Confused and greatly upset, he went often into the hills to comfort himself by singing. Since he did not express his hurt, no one could refute or verify Auntie Annie’story. As a result, he became a wounded, insecure child.
   Two years later, when Tandy was eight, he was sent to Kamehameha Schools. He was eager to be with his brother and to see his mother on occasion. Unfortunately, his mother died of a heart attack when he was 12 years old and he never asked her whether Auntie Annie was right, or not about his father. The question that dogged him for decades was finally laid to rest when he was 30 years old during his 1922 visit to Honolulu. Frank took him to his father’s grave and when he saw the death date on the tombstone, he immediately knew that he was truly James’ son. He confessed his confusion to Frank who firmly dismissed Auntie Annie’s misconceived tale.

Kamehameha Preparatory Department founded in 1888. Kamehameha Schools Photo Archives.


    Kamehameha Schools became Tandy’s family and he excelled. He enjoyed the military discipline, learned to sight read music and enjoyed singing in the Glee Club. Swimming developed his six foot frame and robust good health. Planning ahead for life after graduation in 1911, he decided to become a doctor like his godfather, Dr. Tandy Allen.

ROTC officers Classes of 1911 and 1912. Tandy is standing to the far right. Kamehameha Schools Photo Archives

    Planning ahead for life after graduation in 1911, Tandy decided to become a doctor like his godfather, Dr. Tandy Allen. While waiting to hear about the status of his application to Mount Hermon School for Boys founded by Dwight Moody (now Northfield Mount Hermon School) in Northfield, Massachusetts, he worked for Inter-island Shipping Company where Frank also worked. Mount Hermon School for Boys accepted students who would work for their tuition. They offered had a pre-med course of studies. When he was accepted, his employers were reluctant to let such a good worker go.
   Tandy thought the sale of his two horses for forty dollars would pay his way east. When he learned that amount was inadequate for passage to San Francisco, he signed up to shovel coal on the ship and work his way across the Pacific. Frank was not convinced that Tandy was adequately prepared for this daunting adventure and gave him seventy five dollars all the while asking whether he was sure this was what he wanted to do. Tandy was very certain and motivated. He wanted to something with his life and make Frank, Kamehameha Schools and the Hawaiian community proud of him. He was 18 years old.
   Although shoveling coal helped him get across the Pacific, he realized that Frank’s extra money and his forty dollars was needed to buy his train fare and food. On the train, his gentle demeanor attracted the curiosity of a woman passenger. He candidly told her about himself, where he was going and how glad he was for his brother’s monetary help. When she asked about his clothing, he said that he had enough referring to his clothes from Hawai’i. She explained that his clothes would not be adequate for East Coast winters, but he assured her that they were. Understanding his inexperience, she asked for his school address and told him that she would send him winter clothes. He was embarrassed and did not want to hurt her feelings by refusing her kind offer.

Mount Hermon School for Boys, Northfield, Massachusetts

northfield schoolMount Hermon School for Boys founded in 1881. NMH Archives internet file

   Work and studies kept Tandy busy at school Begriming with dishwashing, he worked his way into painting and carpentry where his Kamehameha Schools woodworking skills were well used. His studies went well and he sang in the Glee Club. At the end of the school year, the Glee Club planned its annual concert and Tandy was a soloist. In the audience was a famous opera singer, John McCormack, whose records Tandy had heard in the school library. Mr. McCormack approached Tandy after the concert and told him to make a career of singing. Tandy was intrigued. Singing was a delightful pastime, but he never considered that one could make a living from it. Tandy decided to continue his pre-medical studies thinking that if he was meant to sing, opportunities would open in a timely manner.
   In the meanwhile, three Kamehameha Schools classmates were in a musical play about Hawai‘i called The Bird of Paradise written by Richard Walton Tully. Opening in 1912 in New York City, the original play popularized Hawaiian music with American audiences. A few Hawaiians, W.B. Aeko, S.M. Kaiawe, A. Kawala, W.K.Kolomoku, B. Waiwaiole, are listed in the opening night cast, but are not listed as Kamehameha Schools graduates. Tandy’s friends were a part of the touring company originating in Boston and asked Tandy to join them. The touring company manager hired him after an audition and on the recommendation of his friends. Encouraged, Tandy reasoned that he would be seeing the country and earning money as well. He left Dwight Moody School and found that he enjoyed the theatre and the applause. A singing career seemed right to him. He was 20 years old.

A Singing Career

   While on tour, he learned about racial discrimination for the first time. His friends were denied lodging because they were dark-skinned and the clerks assumed they were Negroes. Light-skinned Tandy joined his friends at another hotel. They thought the incident was an annoying anomaly and put it out of their minds.
 woodrow wilson family  In Toronto, Canada, a young voice teacher was captivated by Tandy's voice. He came backstage and told Tandy he thought he had a promising voice and a great future. He wanted to help him develop it without charge. Tandy promised to think about this unusual offer and continued with the touring company to Washington D.C. On May 5, 1916, Tandy sang to President Woodrow and Mrs. Wilson at a private performance that they requested. Mrs. Wilson was so enchanted by his voice that she gave him a rose which he wore that night. Tandy was 24 years old.

President Woodrow Wilson and family. Internet image.    


    When the tour ended, Tandy’s friends were going to New York City to find singing jobs. Tandy decided to go to Toronto to accept the singing teacher’s offer. When toronto, canadathe tour ended, Tandy’s friends went to New York City to find singing jobs. Tandy decided to accept the singing teacher’s offer and went to Toronto. He became a part of Stanley and Ethel Adams’ family living with them and earning wages as a singer at The Eaton Memorial Church where Mr. Adams directed the choir. He played his ukulele and sang for the Adams family describing the beauty of the islands in song,. He always remembered that he was Hawaiian and thought he would return to Hawai‘i, but not before he achieved musical success.

City of Toronto Archives, Series 330, File 2. Internet file.

   After a year with the Adamses, Stanley had taught Tandy all he could musically. Tandy’s friends in New York City were earning a living as Hawaiian entertainers where Hawaiian music was popular. They encouraged him to join them. A trusting child of the islands, his year with the Adamses had taught him how to manage his meager wages. He had money for his train fare and to carry him over until he found work. Tandy was 25 years old.
   New York City was large and exciting. Tandy explored it. He found work in smoky nightclubs singing to audiences of drunken revelers, and hecklers. The smoke irritated his throat. This was the beginning of an era of excess and private parties. World War I raged in Europe, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution passed in henry ford 19191917 prohibited the consumption of beverages with more than .5% alcohol.
   At a private party, Henry Ford heard Tandy sing and invited him to come to Detroit to sing for his factory workers during their recreation hour. Tandy accepted and for seven months lived in luxury.

Henry Ford in 1919. Internet file.

Biltmore Hotel
  World War I was over and Armistice Day, November 18, 1918 saw Tandy back in New York City where he shared rooms in a brownstone with his friends. He was immediately hired by the Biltmore Hotel to sing during tea time for $20.00 a week and since the hours were short, he did occasional nightclub venues to add to his income.

Biltmore Hotel. Internet file.

A regular patron, Mr. Gann gave him a free pass to the Metropolitan Opera. He did not know what opera was and certainly did not know where the Metropolitan Opera House was. One of his friends helped him out telling him that an opera was a play sung in foreign languages. Tandy found his way to the Metropolitan Opera House and a new world opened to him. Caruso moved him to tears and he told Mr. Gann about his experience. Mr. Gann “put his name on the door” meaning that he could go in free to any performance as often as he likeMetropolitan Opera House 1905d. Tandy attended every opera and heard the most famous voice of the Metropolitan. He dreamed of being a Metropolitan opera singer, the best of the best.

Metropolitan Opera House. Internet file.

    One day, he unexpectedly received a letter from the Honolulu Civic Club saying that his name had been submitted as a candidate to receive $750.00 from a fund, but he needed a character reference to validate his candidacy. He decided that the manager of the Biltmore Hotel was the best person to ask. He explained how Mr. Gann’s introduction to opera had inspired him to become an opera singer. The money from the Hawaiian Civic Club would pay for singing lessons toward that goal. The manager instructed him to leave the letter with him. When Tandy returned he not only got his character reference, but an audition at Columbia Graphophone Company and an introduction to the best voice teacher in New York City. Tandy later learned that Prince Kuhio submitted his name for the Honolulu Civic Club funds because he was interested in the welfare of Hawaiians living in New York City and he heard about Tandy’s aspirations to be an opera singer. From Columbia Graphophone Company, Tandy received a contract to record 5 records at $500.00 each the first year, and ten records the next year. From the introduction to the best voice teacher, Mr. William Thorner, Tandy entered into a seven year management contract that included free voice lessons. Thorner was so confident in his vocal abilities that he asked for thirty five percent of Tandy’s future earnings. They drew up a contract on April 22, 1919. Upon hearing the news, Frank was delighted and Stanley Adams was glad to have been the first to recognize Tandy’s greatness.

Timeline of Tandy’s singing career

1919 April 22 honolulu visit
• Tandy signs a Memorandum of Agreement with William Thorner, teacher and manager for 7 years, extended to 1929
1921 July 20
• Tandy changes management agencies to be with F.C. Coppicus dba Metropolitan Musical Bureau. The original contract with Thorner is honored.
• Tandy meets and marries Maud Irene Goodspeed who is 18 years older, thrice divorced with three children (not in her care). In the future, they have no children of their own
• Tandy signs an agreement with F. C. Coppicus for the 1922-1923 season
• 1922 June-August Three recitals in Honolulu
In reality: 6 concerts in Honolulu, speech and short recital at Kamehameha Schools, 2 concerts on Maui and lu’au, 3 concerts on Kaua’i, 3 at Kalaupapa, 1 at Hilo
• 1922 In December, Tandy sings at a private party in at the Washington Court House, Ohio
• Tandy signs another Columbia Graphophone Company recording contract [continuation]

Tandy in Honolulu, 1922. Kamehameha Schools Archives.

Tandy sings at a Sioux City concert
• In January, Tandy is hired to do a recital at the Torrington Music Club of Torrington, Connecticut
• Tandy is hired to do a recital in New Rochelle, New York and up to 50 concerts arranged by Coppicus during the year.
• Tandy performs with other Hawaiians in Charles E. King’s, Prince of Hawai‘i in Los Angeles.
• Tandy returns to Honolulu. A $12,000 gift from a group of prominent islanders will be used for voice study in Italy. An audition with Maestro Arturo Toscanini in Milan helps him find Professor Pintorno, the best teacher to train his voice from a lyric tenor into a dramatic tenor needed for grand opera work.
• Tandy returns to Honolulu to rest after a year of study with Professor Printorno. Tandy sings and is feted. Maud is unpleasant, insulting and uncouth. Frank and Ū‘ilani Robertson, a good friend, confront him about his wife’s alienating behavior. Tandy is helpless to confront Maud's unpleasantness, or to leave her. He is her tragic captive. On Maud’s insistence, Tandy prematurely leaves his training with Professor Printorno to pursue Maud’s agenda of an opera career in Paris. She is the manager of his career.
• Aida, Tosca, Pagliacci and Cavaleria Rusticana are sung in Paris and Czechoslovakia to appreciative audiences.
• A serendipitous meeting with agent William Frankfurter in Salzburg, Austria gains Tandy a 5 year contract with the Bavarian State Opera.
• Hitler refuses to allow non-Germans to sing. Tandy’s contract is cancelled and he returns to New York City without a job.
• Tandy auditions for the Metropolitan Opera Company, but Casazza, the general manager, refuses to hire Tandy because he will not tolerate Maud’s insults and threats. Tandy refuses to acknowledge Maud’s debilitating influence on his career.
• Tandy sings Aida with the French Italian Opera Company.
• In April he sings two operas in Montreal.
• In September, he sings in San Francisco.
• Thinking he has proven himself and he has to his audiences, he auditions with the Metropolitan again. Casazza refuses to hire him as second time. He cannot understand that his wife is the problem.
• He completes a successful season for the San Francisco Opera Company and applies to the Metropolitan Opera Company for the third time. He is at the peak of his abilities. Still Casazza refuses to hire him a third time.
• In San Francisco, Maud, has so insulted manager Merolo that the San Francisco Opera company will not hire Tandy despite his musical acclaim.
• Dispirited and unable to confront Maud, he returns with her to Honolulu at the end of the year.
• Maud plans a tour of Asia where Tandy is unknown. He meets with success in Tokyo and Yokohama.
• His concert in Shanghai is cancelled because of a cold.
• Manila, Straits Settlement, Java, and India are cancelled because of Maud’s incompetent planning. Maud covers it up and Tandy accepts her explanations.
• Tandy and Maud settle in Los Angeles because of the climate, affordable rents, work in motion pictures and singing venues at the Hollywood Bowl. He begins to sing at various venues.
• Tandy sings with the San Carlo Opera Company.
• Tandy sings with the Hollywood Bowl.
• Tandy sings in the Los Angeles grand opera season.
• Tandy sings in the movies, Anthony Adverse with Olivia De Haviland and in San Francisco with Jeanette MacDonald. Maud’s connivance, interference and threats irritate studio heads so that they have no choice but to bar Maud from the sets and blacklist Tandy in the industry. Maud destroys his movie career.
Hollywood Hall of Song, a new radio program, features Tandy as the star and host.
• Tandy sings in the Hollywood Bowl summer concerts
1937 -1939
• Tandy sings in the Grand Opera season in Los Angeles
1937 -1939
• Tandy sings in the Grand Opera season in Los Angeles
• Tandy and Maud participate in the 30 week San Carlo Opera Company tour
• Maud arranges a January recital and an August concert at the Redlands Bowl.
• Tandy sings in Mexico City.
• He dreams of starting his own opera company to offer a greater variety of operas and to bring Hawaiians to sing with him. That is all it will be, a dream.
• Tandy and Maud tour with the San Carlo Opera Company.
• He receives his long sought contract with the Metropolitan Opera Company from his long-time friend, Mr. Johnson, now the manager. Maud threatens Mr. Johnson with lawsuits if her terms are not met. Mr. Johnson refuses to hire Tandy if Maud continues to be a part of his life. Unable to part from Maud, Tandy gives up his dream and Maud selfishly clings to him.
• The only opera company that will hire him is the San Carlo Opera Company in California.
• Tandy and Maud tour with the San Carlo Opera Company.
• Musical tastes are changing, operatic opportunities and other singing venues are minimal. Maud has mismanaged and squandered Tandy’s earnings. They live on Maud’s pension benefits of $72.00 a week.
• Maud dies of cancer at 82 years of age. Tandy is by her side and is bereft.
• Tandy meets and marries Jean, a business woman, who provides for and cares for him until his death in 1963.

obituary   His second wife Jean writes, ” …No matter how well he could sing, the tenor is a youthful role, and despite the fact that he did not look his age, and though his voice was still as beautiful and powerful as ever, he was finished as an opera singer. It was terribly sad. In spite of his years, like so many artists, he was still a child. No matter how much I tried to let him stand on his own feet, it was too late. He would remain helpless to the end of his days.” (Tandy, 337)

    The first internationally acclaimed Native Hawaiian operatic tenor from Hawai‘i, Tandy MacKenzie, was in his prime when opera was appreciated by audiences everywhere. At the peak of his abilities in 1941 after singing professionally for over 22 years, he almost attained his lifelong dream to join the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City. A career with the Metropolitan Opera Company would have established him as an opera celebrity of historical importance. Unfortunately, he became a tragic hero like those portrayed in his operas. Tied inexorably to a boorish, selfish woman, his wife threatened and insulted managers of the Metropolitan Opera Company, the San Francisco Opera Company and the movie industry, thereby derailing his career, goals and dreams. In an age of sensibility, and manners, her behavior was unforgivable. He was unable to stop her. In addition, she mismanaged his income leaving them penniless as his career waned. His magnificent voice, hard work and fortuitous opportunities were not enough to overcome this destructive partnership. Nonetheless, he showed others what might be.

Information is from his biography, Tandy by Jean S. MacKenzie published in 1975, and from primary source documents and images in the Tandy MacKenzie Collection of the Kamehameha Schools Archives

Web site maintained by Kamehameha Schools Archives
General photo credit: Kamehameha Schools Archives
©Kamehameha Schools. Statements of copyright, privacy and disclaimer.

kamehameha nui bernice pauahi bishop