Brad Bordessa: Hometown ‘Ukulele Hero

Brad Bordessa has been with the five-year-old Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat from the beginning. But I have known him much longer than that.

We first met at Keoki Kahamoku’s Hawaiian Lifestyle Workshop in Pahala, back in 2007. Brad was just 14 years old at the time, but even then, he showed amazing promise and a passion for music that went well beyond wanting to “wow” everyone with youthful skill and speed. He was hungry to learn and eager to share what he was learning with everyone around him, but he did it in an unassuming and generous manner. Barely in their teens, Brad and a friend created Live ‘Ukulele,  one of the first on-line blogs devoted exclusively to the instrument. That blog, now more than 10 years old, is still maintained by Brad and is updated regularly with lessons, tabs, and gear reviews. To this day, it is a valuable resource for all students of the ‘ukulele.

Over the years, Brad, who now lives in  Honoka’a, just over the hill from Hawi, has been mentored by the very best:  Chuck Moore, George Kahumoku, Herb Ohta, Jr., and James Hill. And while Brad is an amazing performer and a thoughtful and talented songwriter, he also excels at sharing with his students all he has learned from the masters in an easy-going,  informative manner that is easy for “adult learners” to comprehend.

Brad is always on the look-out for things he thinks we need to learn and ways to teach complex concepts in an understandable fashion. That’s what he brings to the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat each year, That’s why we keep asking him back.

Among other things we can expect from Brad at the retreat this year are some definitive workshops on ‘Ukulele Chord Shapes, since he just wrote the book on that subject. He’ll also be teaching us how to play using our ears–and not our eyes–and how to strum and pick to deliver a cleaner, more polished, sound, over all. For more advanced players, Brad will be teaching a brand new workshop on how to tab out some favorite tunes, so you can create your own arrangements with a little finger picking, alternate chords, and chord melody. And he’s putting together a jam of contemporary Hawaiian tunes.

Brad joins an all star line-up at this year’s retreat in Hawi, October 15 – 21, with Gerald Ross, Kevin Carroll, Kaliko Beamer Trapp, Lady Ipo, and KonaBob and will be adding to an already comprehensive list of classes and workshops for ukulele players of all skill levels and genres.

While the Kohala Village Inn is totally booked, you can still register for this year’s retreat if you can find someplace nearby to stay! (Search Airbnb or VRBO for Hawi–there were still some great options available the last time I checked!) Or, feel free to contact us in case there have been any last minute cancellations.

Here’s a little “freebie:”

Really, you really should take this opportunity to take some classes from Brad now, so you can say, “I knew him when.”

Why you should learn to play the ‘ukulele in Hawai’i

And it’s not the reason you think!

You may have been expecting a discourse on the ‘ukulele’s Hawaiian origins, but you’d have been wrong.  Of course, most people do associate the ‘ukulele with Hawai’i, and justifiably so. For it was the Hawaiians who adapted, re-designed  an instrument brought to their shores about 125 years ago by Portuguese immigrants who came to work in the sugar cane fields. Renamed ‘ukulele (jumping flea) by the Hawaiians, it quickly rose in popularity in the islands,  and when it showed up on the mainland as part of the Hawaiian Exposition at the Panama Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915, the ‘ukulele helped launch a craze that lasted well into the 20’s and early 30’s. topAnd when it seemingly fell out of favor on the mainland, the Hawaiians continued to embrace the ‘ukulele and are perhaps responsible for its most recent incarnation–who can forget the iconic images of Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, or “Iz,” a giant of a man, coaxing such lovely tunes out of his relatively tiny ‘ukulele?

But that’s not why you should go to Hawai’i to learn to play your ‘ukulele or to get further instruction. You should go for the immersion. For the camaraderie. As a gift to yourself.  To lose yourself for 5 magical days into the wonderful sensation of making music with others in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

260218_526178320779043_151622472_nThere is nothing quite like an immersion experience to get your head wrapped around anything.  Sure, you might take weekly music lessons, attend every ukulele workshop that comes your way, join your pals for a weekly or monthly sing-along, and have a rollicking good (but short) time at an ‘ukulele festival.  But then, life gets in the way.  You forget some of the little tips you learned. You don’t have time to practice. And the pals you play and sing with just aren’t available when you’d like them to be.

But come to the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat and you’ll find yourself walking out of a workshop with a little time on your hands and the opportunity to sit and practice what you just learned. And if there’s something you forgot or need help with, other students and the instructor are right there, at the ready.  You don’t have to stop to make dinner or clean the house or go to work or pick up the kids from school or take the dog for a walk or do anything at all! There really is no better way to get your head (and hands) wrapped around those 4 strings than to attend the  retreat and immerse yourself in learning, practicing, and playing.

379638_4856273366670_1706906658_nBut learning new skills and techniques is not the only reason you should come to Hawai’i to play your ‘ukulele.  It’s also the new friends you’ll make with people from all walks of life and from all over the country (and beyond), people who will become near and dear to you over the course of five days. And then there’s all the health benefits born from the lovely camaraderie that evolves through a shared experience. And what can be more invigorating and relaxing, than making music with your friends? Whether you come by yourself or with friends or loved ones, you will leave with your heart full.

hawaii-hula-wahine-ukulele1Immersion?  Camaraderie? Sure. But why Hawai’i? Because it is Hawai’i, and there is no other place like it on the planet. There’s a reason the Hawaiian Islands are often called “paradise.” Sugar-sand beaches to walk along while dolphins spin out of the water offshore. Crystal clear water to swim in, along with beautiful tropical fish and the occasional curious sea turtle or honu. Trade winds to gently blow your cares away and palm trees to settle under and relax. Tropical plants and flowers that help awaken all the senses, waterfalls to refresh your soul, and volcanoes to remind you that the planet is alive. And music, music, music everywhere you turn. And people who live aloha.

So why should you learn to play your ‘ukulele in Hawai’i?  Because at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, it’s all about you!  Choose to give this gift to yourself. You deserve it.

Registration for the 2015 Hawai’i Island Ukulele Retreat is open, and we’d love to have you join us.