A former worker in our KHON2 newsroom won a coveted Grammy Award Sunday.

Hawaiian singer-songwriter Kalani Pe‘a won in the Best Regional Roots Music Album category for his debut album “E Walea.”

Pe‘a posted a photo on social media with the message: “Proud to represent Lahui Hawaii.”

He described the life-changing moment to us: “I was literally freezing in that theater and I think I was just really, really nervous, because I saw the faces of so many talented musicians from around the world being there to network, to mingle, to learn about each others music, and when I heard ‘E Walea, Kalani Pe‘a,’ I just grabbed my loved ones next to me, kissed them, and I only had — according to Margaret Cho — I only had 45 seconds to speak, but apparently the recording academy gave me two minutes. So I told myself, ‘Am I going to roll down the aisle, or should I sprint it?’ And I sprint through. I ran through with my hands in the air praising to God.”

This is the first time a Hawaiian artist has won in this category since the Best Hawaiian Music Album award was discontinued in 2011. The Best Regional Roots Music Album award honors recordings in regionally based traditional American music, including Hawaiian, Native American, polka, zydeco and Cajun music genres.

Pe‘a started singing when he was four years old as a way to overcome a speech impediment.

He worked on our assignment desk several years ago and is now a teacher at Kamehameha Schools.

“A lot of the students are telling their parents, ‘Oh my gosh, I have a kumu, I have a teacher that is a Grammy-Award winner,’ but I don’t know what else to say other than just learning to maintain the values that I have, being modest about the work that I do, being rooted, being grounded, and knowing my sense of place and knowing that I come from Hawaii and I’m proud to represent Hawaii,” he said.

As for what’s next, Pe‘a is scheduled to perform at Ward Village’s Kona Nui Nights this Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. in the IBM Courtyard.

In the future, he says, “My goal is to write music for my second album, and I continue to educate. I want to continue to teach and create curriculum while working at Kamehameha Schools. That’s my passion, but I’m so much more passionate now. It just literally took me on a new level, being a professional singer-songwriter and being able to network and build collaborations. I’m all about working with legendary Hawaiian artists as well as new millennial upcoming artists in Hawaii, and I look forward to working with other genres and other artists around the world.”

Pe‘a’s debut album came out in August 2016. Click here for more information about his music.