Lehua Wilson AhSam – The Jewel in the Crown

Lehua Wilson AhSam has been an integral part of the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat since we moved to the Kohala Village Hub two years ago. So, we thought it was time to let you all know a little more about her.

O Kaneohe Koolaupoko kuu one hanau

O Hilo Paliku kuu wahi hanai

O Kohala Loko kuu wahi noho 

O Lehua Ah Sam kuu inoa 

Roughly interpreted: Lehua was born in Kaneohe, Oahu; raised in Hilo, Hawai’i; and lives today in “deep” Kohala with her husband’s family.

But there is much more to Lehua Wilson AhSam than all the places she has been, and she continues to astound us all with her resources, talent, skill, and generosity.  She is the “tock” to the “tick” of the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat: consistently sure and steady, relentlessly operating in the background (as the Executive Director of the Kohala Village Hub), and absolutely indispensable.

She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and a Master’s in Hawaiian Studies, is fluent in Hawaiian language, and teaches Hawaiian Studies at the Hawaiian Community College.  She is also trained in Hula and has performed at the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. . . . .and to hear her sing is to take a journey back to the time of the Hawaiian monarchs.

Lehua is also a crew member for Makali’i, Hawai’i Island’s own voyaging canoe.

“He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa” 

“The canoe is our island, and the island is our canoe.”

It is Lehua’s passion for Hawaiian culture and all things wa’a (canoe-related) that will inform and enhance our “extra-curricular” activities, especially our visit to the Maka o Hule Heiau. It is her attention to every detail during our stay at the Kohala Village Inn that will ensure our success, again, at this year’s Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat October 15 – 21, at the Kohala Village Hub in Hawi.

Lehua joins a staff of exemplary talent at this year’s retreat: Gerald Ross (‘Ukulele and Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar); Brad Bordessa (‘Ukulele); Kevin Carroll (‘Ukulele and Uke-estra); Lady Ipo (‘Ukulele and Hula); Kaliko Beamer-Trapp (‘Ukulele and Story-telling); and KonaBob (Slack-key Bass and  Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar.)

It’s not too late to register, but we only have 3 rooms left at the Kohala Village Inn!  So hurry, if you don’t want to miss the most fun you can have with your ‘ukulele on, Hawaiian style!

Click Here for On-line Registration

Introducing Kaliko Beamer Trapp

Kaliko Beamer Trapp will always hold a special place in my heart.  He is the instructor who took this faltering, struggling ‘ukulele beginner with six thumbs on each hand, and got her to the point where she could change chords, strum, and sing (in Hawaiian). . . . .all at the same time. . . . .and with a certain amount of ease!  So Kaliko was a natural choice to teach our beginning ‘ukulele classes at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat. . . . . .and  this year, we were finally able  to nab him!

But, teaching beginning ‘ukulele is just the tip of the iceberg.

Kaliko, is the hānai (adopted) son of the late Aunty Nona Beamer and brother of famed Hawaiian slack key guitarist, Keola Beamer. He is an avid student of Polynesian culture and language and is a lecturer in Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo. And he’s a fabulous story teller who lovingly, and respectfully, recounts the ancient tales of his adopted homeland. He will be bringing all of that with him to this Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, October 15 – 21, at the Kohala Village Inn in Hawi.

In addition to teaching ‘ukulele for beginners, Kaliko will be teaching a workshop on rhythm (something we all can use) with traditional Hawaiian percussion instruments and another workshop focusing on “Hawai’i Aloha,” the beautiful song that traditionally closes any Hawaiian gathering or ceremony. His students will also  learn the meaning and correct pronunciation of the Hawaiian words.  (Imagine if you heard a visitor enthusiastically singing “Tinkle, tinkle, little star!”. . . . .Don’t be that person!)

He will also be offering delightful storytelling sessions each day after lunch, Ha’i Mo’olelo, accompanied by a Hawaiian mele, or song.  And Kaliko will also be our personal guide for an optional visit to Pu’ukoholā Heiau, a temple built by King Kamahameha and dedicated to Kū, the Hawaiian war god.  There’s a fascinating story there no visitor to North Kohala should miss.

Kaliko’s fun-loving approach to ʻukulele and his ability to make everyone feel at ease as they chart new territory will be a huge benefit to all beginners at this year’s retreat. But what he brings for everyone else is every bit as valuable: a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of Hawaiian music, culture, history, language, and tradition . . . . . a very important piece of the puzzle that makes up this year’s Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat. We sincerely hope you can join us.

Register Now

(Hurry!   We only have 4 rooms left!)

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.”

Tchaikovsky comes to Hawai’i!

Tchaikovsky and Irish Fiddle Tunes!

jifkogfiddjpfbbkHave we got a treat for you! ‘Ukulele instructor extraordinaire, Kevin Carroll, will be joining us at the Kohala Village Inn, October 15 – 21, for the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, bringing incredible opportunities to learn and play world music with one of the finest instructors we know.

How about learning a little Celtic ‘Ukulele?  You’d be surprised at how similar in format and spirit an Irish “session” is to an Hawaiian kanikapila and how readily an ‘ukulele can play Celtic fiddle melodies!

Or how about a 5-day class in ‘Ukulele Blues & Soul to experience the gritty, rhythmic tones and textures that unfolded as “the blues” and morphed into “soul.”  Think Bessie Smith. The Four Tops. Vocalists, bass players, baritone and standard ukulele players will all find ample opportunities here to expand their skill sets.

And if you’re a classical music buff (and even if you’re not) you could work on your picking, strumming, timing, and learning to play as an ensemble while learning, practicing and performing Tchaikovsky’s Chanson Triste. . . . .on the ‘ukulele!

And because it is Hawai’i (and because Kevin always goes all out), don’t be surprised if  Kevin also brings us a couple of  arrangements of classic Tin-Pan-Alley “Hawaiian” tunes to play as an Hawaiian band!

Honi kâua wikiwiki!

We love working with Kevin Carroll and his students agree that he is simply one of the best ‘ukulele instructors out there.  We are over the moon that Kevin has agreed to join us in Hawi  and hope you will join us as well!

Registration is open and we still have rooms available in all categories, though all choices (especially with shared bathroom) are in increasingly short supply. Register soon for the most options.

Click here for more information.

Guess who’s coming to Hawi?

No doubt about it, some of the folks who come to the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat are hankering for ways to expand their musical repertoire beyond the ‘ukulele. Consequently we will be extending this year’s offerings by bringing in the “King of Swing,”  the inimitable Gerald Ross, who will be teaching not only ‘ukulele, but Hawaiian lap steel guitar, as well.

For many years now, Gerald has been one of our favorite ‘ukulele instructors, always bringing new advanced techniques and tunes (and occasionally a few new jokes), and delivering them all with a relaxed, easy-going style (bordering on mischievous) that only someone with his years and years of musical experience can deliver.  (He did, after all get his start on “Captain Kangaroo.”)

Not only are Gerald’s workshops top-notch, but he is also an amazing band leader with a propensity for putting together some stellar bands on the fly, and bringing out the best in everyone!  He is a jam master extraordinaire and his musical repertoire seems limitless, from tunes of the Big Band era to the slinky tones of surf music. . . . . and beyond.

Gerald joins a stellar cast of characters already committed to this year’s retreat, including Hawai’i Island’s own KonaBob, Brad Bordessa, and Kaliko Beamer. So, you know we’re in for a week of wonderful ‘ukulele instruction, camaraderie, and good-hearted fun.

There’s more to come, including a few additions to the staff, but in the meantime you should know that registration is  now open and we’d love to have you join Gerald and the rest of the crew at the Kohala Village Inn, in the lovely little town of Hawi, October 15 – 21.

Click here for rooms and rates

New “Special Events” for 2017

As we wait for confirmation from some of our staff members, I thought you might like to see some of the “special events” we’ll be hosting at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, October 15 – 21. (These are in addition to our usual round-up of ongoing ‘ukulele, bass, lap steel, and hula classes and individual workshops.) We’ve gt a little bit of everything: star gazing with a pwo navigator, hikes to ancient temples, an ‘ukulele beach party, outrigger canoeing, and more.

Maka o Hule Navigation Heiau 

Those hoping to absorb some local history can join us for a short (1.8 mile) early-morning hike and photo opportunity along the lovely Kohala coast, strolling past inviting crystal clear coves before  a very short scramble up to Maka o Hule Navigation Heiau, an ancient  temple of upright stones that point, with remarkable accuracy, to ancient seafaring destinations thousands of miles away, a testament to the unsurpassed navigational skills of the ancient Polynesians.

At least a century before the Europeans made landfall in the Americas, Polynesians were actively engaged in trade with various peoples in South America and North America, introducing the locals to chicken and returning to Polynesia with sweet potatoes. They voyaged out of sight of land for weeks at a time, navigating thousands and thousands of miles of open ocean without a compass or chronometer, using their encyclopedic knowledge of the sun, the moon, the and the stars, tides, winds, currents, clouds, and ocean swells, animal migration,  weather patterns, and changes in the color of the sea. It is said that a Polynesian navigator could tell by the shape of a mid-ocean wave whether or not it had crested an island in the past 2 weeks.

A brotherhood of experts,  trained to have acute powers of observation and memory, the Polynesian navigators were also priests responsible for conducting the rituals of their profession, invoking spiritual help in their voyages, and passing their profound skill and knowledge on to the next generation.  This they did with songs or chants, repeated until mastered and memorized, at temples such as Maka o Hule, where we will have opportunity to view and appreciate the sacred stones pointing across the vast and tempestuous Pacific Ocean to the islands of Tahiti, the Marquesas and the other Southern Islands.

Optional Outrigger Canoeing

While you wan’t be paddling across vast stretches of the Pacific, through a special arrangement with the local canoe club, we can offer hour-plus rides and paddling instruction down at Kawaihae to retreat attendees for a $100 surcharge.   What a great way to experience Hawai’i as the Hawaiians do and to kick-off our annual Beach Party BBQ and KaniKaPila, held this year at Spencer Beach State Park.

Pu’ukoholā Heiau

But if outrigger canoeing doesn’t float your boat, you can join us for a short walk along the Ala Kahakai, a National Historic Trail, followed by a ranger-led tour of Pu’ukoholā Heiau, one of the best-preserved and most significant temple sites in Hawai’i, built by Kamahameha the Great and dedicated to the war god, Kū.

This is just a smattering of the Hawaiian history to be learned  here…..all within a few steps of Spencer Beach, one of the few white-sand beaches on the Big Island, where, after our tour, we will eat and swim and snorkel and kanikapila until they toss us out.

But wait!  There’s more……

Star Gazing at Kawaihae

“If there are conflicts, the navigator must resolve them; if there is sickness, the navigator’s responsibility is to heal; if there is damage, the navigator must repair it.  His kuleana is to sail and bring back gifts to his home island.”

Remember the Polynesian navigators we were just talking about?  Well, before we head home for the evening, we will be joined by Chadd ‘Ōnohi Paishon, pwo navigator and captain of Hawai’i Island’s own voyaging canoe, Makali’i, and the voyaging organization  Nā Kālai Wa‘a.  As the star begin to fill the sky, Chadd will guide us on a fascinating star gazing voyage through the darkness, a perfect way to cap an extraordinary day at Kawaihae.

How did we ever get so lucky?

And all of this is in addition to daily classes and workshops in ‘ukulele, lap steel guitar, bass, and hula, not to mention ongoing evening entertainment in one of the lovliest locations on the island, the Kohala Village Hub.

Wouldn’t you like to join us?  Registration is now open and we still have rooms available  in all categories.  But hurry, they won’t last.

Register Now

 

Typical Day at an ‘Ukulele Retreat in Hawai’i

With our new location at the Kohala Village Inn in Hawi, on the northern tip of the Big Island, even we didn’t know what to expect last year. But within a day or two we had settled into a lovely routine that enhanced our ukulele immersion experience, far from the maddening crowds, taking every advantage of where we were, with all our earthly needs attended to. This, indeed, was paradise.  Here’s what a typical day might look like for you, should you decide to join us at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat.

Better sign6:30am – Wake as the rising sun fills the sky with color and the birds begin their cheerful morning chatter in the trees outside your window. If you’re so inclined, you can take a little stroll down to the Kohala Coffee Mill, just a short block away, and order a cappuccino or an iced Americano to sip on the patio out front, read the local paper, visit with your pals, and watch the sleepy little town of Hawi come to life in front of you.

13173943_1735862566629429_1951241084427829037_n8:00am – Yum. Breakfast back at the Kohala Village Inn. Every meal is a feast for your eyes (and your tummy) and made with the best locally sourced ingredients, and fresh, just for us.

IMG_05479:15am – Time for the first ukulele workshop of the day, an opportunity to meet with the same instructor and a group of fellow students at the same level as you (Levels 1 – 4) throughout the retreat.  Together you will work through a series of skills and techniques that you will need to advance to the next level of play and emerge a much better player.  The small class size and our dedicated teachers ensure that the class progresses at everyone’s pace. And if, for some reason, the class isn’t right for you, you can always switch to another.

IMG_053110:45am – After a brief 15 minute break, it’s time for another ukulele workshop or you can sit this one out and join Robyn for hula lessons or KonaBob for a little Hawaiian Lap Steel instruction.  And don’t forget the value of practice.  You don’t have to jam something into every hour of every day.  A little down time is good, as is a little time to practice what you just learned.

Breakfast Kohala Village InnNoon – Lunch-time and another fabulous meal at the Kohala Village Inn. Served buffet-style you can pick and choose and eat as much or as little as you want. And if you have any dietary restrictions, don’t worry, you’ll be taken care of.  Every meal is another welcome adventure.

IMG_0596After lunch – There’s a little time to relax, explore the town, or jump into a car and head down to Mahukona Beach Park, which is not technically a “beach” (there is no sand or crashing surf), but it’s a great place to jump off the dock or climb down the ladder and go for a swim in your very own aquarium. And don’t forget your snorkel gear!  There will be tropical fish by the hundreds swimming with you in the crystal clear water! This can become a daily ritual, or a once in a lifetime treat.

DSC000631:30pm – The third session of the day lets you to pick and choose from a number of ukulele workshops offered by our illustrious staff, or (new this year) you can choose to join Del Rey’s “Memphis Blues Party” and jam the way they used to on the back porch down South. Or, if you’re hankering to learn how to “bring up the bottom,” join KonaBob and Dave Egan and learn all about that bass, stick-style or U-bass style.

IMG_05423:00pm – Band Practice!  The high point of the day for many of our attendees.  This is when you’ll get together with your band mates (arbitrarily assigned) and put together a number (original or otherwise–costumes encouraged) to perform for the last night of the retreat.  It’s a time to step outside your comfort zone and step up to the plate and work with your band to create something memorable or try something you have never tried before, or just sit back and have some fun with your ‘ukulele.

12079989_1049347105100182_7796576640356872193_o4:30pm – This is where things get interesting. You can join Dave Egan for a little “woodshedding” (again, new for this year) or, depending on the night of the week, you can stroll into town and check out happy hour at Bamboo and try one of their world-famous lilikoi mai tais before dinner. DSC00159On another evening, we will all be piling into cars and heading down to Kapa’a Beach Park for a fabulous ukulele beach barbecue accompanied by authentic, live Hawaiian music as the sun sets slowly in the West. IMG_0726On a different evening we will be getting dressed up to go to the Blue Dragon in Kawaihai for slightly more formal music and an elegant and delicious dinner. It’s all good. No, it’s better than good. Way better. And by the time the sun has set on the horizon, everyone is ready for bed.

IMG_05869:30pm – Well, not everyone. If you’re still feeling a little restless you can follow the lovely melodies and find the folks (including instructors) who just can’t make themselves stop making music. These are the ones who would jam all night if they could. They are your new best friends and will help create some of the most beautiful and lasting memories to take home with you when the retreat is over.

What better place could there be to take your ‘ukulele and learn and grow as a musician than beautiful Hawai’i?  And what better way than total immersion with a limited group of like-minded people and a handful of fabulous instructors?  Be sure to visit our website for more information.