In Japanese, “kokoro” is used to signify “heart” or “soul”.  In music, the drums keep the beat, or the “heart” of the music.  The keyboards, bass and guitar represent the body of the music, and the vocals embody the “soul”.

The band, Kokoro, is a music group consisting of almost all Asian-Americans, and covers music from Motown to country, rock and pop; from the hits of the 60’s to current Billboard chart toppers.

Though Kokoro has only been together a short time, individually the members of Kokoro have had the good fortune to work with many celebrities in the industry, including Gladys Knight, Jessica Simpson, Hiroshima, and Gene Simmons, to name a few.  Additionally, throughout their own individual careers, they have played high-level venues such as the Palladium, the Sunset Strip, the Flamingo Hilton Las Vegas and the American Music Awards.

The members of Kokoro came together to form a band out of the pure love of music – and together, they have found something beyond just performing together, but shaped their own musical family.

Kokoro prides itself on performing not just the music and lyrics of the song, but getting down to the soul of the song.  After all, as the saying by Frederick Delius goes: “Music is an outburst of the soul.”

    Please take a moment to get to know the members of Kokoro:


Lauren Kinkade - Vocals

Lauren Kinkade has been singing professionally for over 10 years, and shared the stage with legendary artists like Gladys Knight to contemporary artists such as Jessica Simpson.  During this time, she trained both classically as a coloratura soprano as well as in pop vocal with celebrity vocal coach Seth Riggs (Michael Jackson, Natalie Cole, Stevie Wonder, Prince).  Lauren’s singing has taken her all over the world, including various performances in the states (including Hawaii) to as far away as Japan. 

A fourth-generation Japanese-American, Lauren is extremely proud of her bi-cultural background, but especially her Japanese heritage, and was honored to be named Nisei Week Queen in 2001.  Now a wife and mother, Lauren is thrilled to be a part of Kokoro to get back on stage and do what she loves - sing.


Steven Santiago - Vocals

Steven got his start singing in church as a child with his two older sisters.   These performances tapped into his love for music which further encouraged him to sing in high school as well as join local garage bands.

By age 21 he began fronting one of the premier LA strip bands, "Sarge".  After being scouted by a rep from Motown records, he was asked to become the lead for "Kagny and the Dirty Rats" which went on to record an album of the same name.  On this album, Steven was joined by the iconic Temptations who performed background vocals on three songs.  Steven also performed a duet with Smokey Robinson and was honored to have Junior Walker play sax on three additional tracks.  Two songs from the album made airplay and one music video was featured on MTV.

Steven has had the additional privilege of working with artists such as Marq Torien (Bullet Boys) and C.C. Deville (Poison).  Since then, Steven has enjoyed being a part of bands like "JX3", "Carry On", "Rad Company", "Thank U Drive Thru", and of course, "Kokoro". 


Jennifer Cella - Vocals

Jennifer Cella is one of the newest members to Kokoro. Jennifer sung both Choral and pop music at Citrus College in Glendora. At Citrus she had the opportunity to tour in both Europe and Japan.


Wayne Horino - Keyboards / Vocals

Wayne first gained his passion for music studying organ and accordion while obtaining his business degree from California State University, Long Beach .  He has played in many bands including “Wheels of Fire”, “Jefferson Bowl” and “Soul Reflections”.


After working as an accountant, Wayne discovered his true calling in the real estate industry.  He now works as a real estate broker and lives in Rowland Heights with his lovely wife, April.


Wayne has always loved music, and is grateful to have found a home in Kokoro.


Glenn Nishida - Bass / Electric Guitar / Harmonica, Musical Director

Glenn Nishida is a veteran of the music industry, having served as Musical Director, Guitarist, and Keyboardist for the bands "Flashback" and "Small Fry" on the Sunset Strip for over 10 years.  He was also the lead guitarist for "We Five", a folk rock band made famous with their #1 song "You Were On My Mind".

Also an accomplished songwriter, Glenn's work has appeared in various television shows (SpongeBob Squarepants, Oprah, the Steve Harvey Show, and The Newlyweds with Jessica Simpson), national and local television commercials (Verizon Wireless, Real California Milk, ABC-TV Sports, The Los Angeles Times, and RE/Max), and movies (Pet Cemetary II, Slap Shot II, and Beach Balls). 

Currently, Glenn is the Owner and Engineer of Pacifica Studios, a recording studio located in Los Angeles.  Pacifica clients have included Gene Simmons (from the hard-rock band KISS), Hiroshima, Donovan, Canned Heat, KTWV, and Terrance Howard.


Michael Chung - Lead Electric Guitar / Vocals

Michael began playing in bands in his teenage years.  During his "Woodstock" days, his performances centered primarily on the acoustic guitar.  Since then, Michael performed in the "Asian Dance Circuit", including performances at places like Parkview, Rodger Young and the Elk's Club.  He's also performed on the Sunset Strip and Palladium, as well as "Surfrider" in Santa Monica.

Michael is just a rock and roll guitar player who is enjoying the chance to perform once again and enjoys being on stage with Kokoro.


Wayne Nagao - Keyboards / Guitar / Bass Guitar

Wayne joined his first band, Younger Sounds, at the age of 15.  Known for playing in the Asian dance circuit, Younger Sounds performed at multiple venues including Parkview and Roger Young.

After playing in various bands in the late 60's and early 70's, including A Long Time Coming and Windfield Summit, Wayne retired from music to work full-time.

He is very excited to dust off his keyboard and be back on the stage with Kokoro.


Gary Liebsack - Drums

Since 1963 Gary has performed alongside legends such as Thee Midniters and The Shirelles.  He has backed both the seminal bluesman Jimmy Reed as well as 60's popstar Freddy Cannon.  Previously, Gary performed jazz with Alan Furutani and has worked with both Glenn Nishida and Dave Watanabe during the disco years at the Imperial Gardens in Hollywood. These days he loves the spirit & fun of performing with Kokoro.



Tom Murray - Percussion



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