Koleyna Kohler, a senior at El Molino High School, has been composing music for almost a decade. Press Democrat photo by Jeff Kan Lee


When the songwriting vibe hits Forestville teen Koleyna Kohler, she picks up her guitar or ukulele.
She pens notes and words about teen issues, such as love, or global problems, such as racism.
The 17-year-old El Molino High School senior, known as Koli, has long been a singer-songwriter — since she was about 8 and started writing a song about explorer Christopher Columbus from the view of a Native American girl.
She called it “Columbus with the Big Butt.” Now a music video, it’s pulled in more than 2,700 hits on YouTube.
But like many teens who tackle a wide range of opportunities and skills, music is just one part of the life of the naturally effervescent Kohler.
“I’m encouraged by my parents, but I’m pretty naturally driven,” she said. “I like staying busy.”
Kohler has roots in the Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa tribes and is involved with issues involving native youth. She is a youth reporter for “On Native Ground,” a tribal nonprofit radio and film organization and in that role got to cover the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
She plays softball each spring at El Molino and is about to try out for another year as a Nord-quist junior dance club instructor. The past three years, Kohler has been in the club of about 80 teens from around Sonoma County who teach ballroom dancing to younger teens.
She’s taken leadership classes in high school, holding an office each year including as associated student body rally commissioner.
Her senior course list will include four AP classes.
El Molino English and social studies teacher Bill Olzman recalled how Kohler’s older sister<NO1><NO> told him to be ready for her younger sibling who was a “little burst of sunshine.”
He quickly saw what she meant.
“Koli is a little burst of sunshine, everywhere she goes. Her smile is ever present,” Olzman said.
Olzman said he’s also impressed with her confidence to be a good role model.
“She takes positive pride in who she is,” he said. “It’s why she’s so great in leadership.”
Kohler was born and raised in Calistoga and attended school in Sebastopol. The family moved to Forestville for high school.
<NO1><NO>She plays piano, viola, guitar and the ukulele and is learning the mandolin.
Writing songs and music comes in her free time.
“I’m not really sure how I get my ideas,” she said. “I just feel the songwriting vibe I guess.”
Kohler is a member of the West Coast Songwriters Association.
Last November, she won best song in the monthly local competition sponsored by the association, held at Coffee Catz in Sebastopol. Playing her ukulele, she won with her song “Starlight.”
“It’s kind of about a summer love,” she said.
Later this month, she’ll compete for song of the year at the coffeehouse.
Kohler is becoming trilingual, learning Spanish and French.
“I want to travel the world and help, (perhaps) in the health fields when I’m older,” she said. “The more language I know the more people I can help.”
Nursing is a possible career, and she volunteers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, stocking supplies or helping where needed in the oncology ward.
“I definitely like nursing a lot more now that I have worked at a hospital,” she said.
She lives with her parents, Megan Chesnut and Jack Kohler.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.