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, Ku.

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.

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.

KonaBob…..Bringing it on!

He’s been such a welcome addition to the last two Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreats, that we have decided to put KonaBob on full-time this year, which may seem a little odd because he doesn’t even play the ‘ukulele!  Even so,  he has a wealth of information to share about music in general and, as the Big Island’s most in-demand bass player, he will have your back…..and everyone’s back throughout the retreat. And he can help you make the music you love to play even better.

10483693_10152494574066529_2081615472961135832_nPlus with the rising popularity (and availability) of ‘ukulele basses, we wanted to add some classes for those of you looking to increase your skill set at the “bottom end,” whether you play upright bass, Walkingbass, or ‘ukulele bass. Because, regardless of what your instrument, you need to learn to think like a bass player, and Kona Bob is just the one to help you do that.  And, if you don’t play bass (and don’t want to) he can help you understand how to work with a bass player to improve everything about your sound.

10264969_138734666296866_3548572013374706330_nBut that’s not all KonaBob will be bringing to this year’s retreat. He actually began his musical career playing Hawaiian steel guitar and studied under Bob Brozman and Ken Emerson, and has since introduced many a neophyte to its plaintive sounds…..a sound that invokes the islands like no other instrument. So, in addition to “bringing up the bottom,” KonaBob will be available to help anyone who may be dabbling in steel guitar already (or who simply want to get their feet wet), and will be offering a number of sessions throughout the retreat that anyone is welcome to join. He’ll have a spare guitar for anyone who wants to give it a whirl, and if you’ve got your own, all the better.  Bring it and work with KonaBob on possibly accompanying one of the bands on Band Night. It’s great fun, and the skills you learn here will translate to all kinds of other music.

Registration for the 2015 Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat is open and we still have rooms available in all categories (and a lovely woman looking for a roommate!)  It’s a whole new Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, and we’d love YOU to be part of it. Here’s the link to register:

2015 Retreat Registration

A New Home for the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat

Kohala Village Inn copy

IMG_0039The minute we walked through the doors of the Kohala Village Inn, we knew we had found the perfect venue for the 2015 Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat. Located in the historic plantation town of Hawi, in the northernmost corner of the Big Island, it has everything we were looking for—quaint, but modern guest rooms; numerous, welcoming communal areas that invite small group gatherings; a number of well-appointed and comfortable classrooms for workshops; IMG_0055and a dedicated performance area—all within the confines of this lovingly renovated historic inn. It’s big enough to accommodate all of our participants and small enough so that we can occupy every room in the place.

IMG_0101And it is a part of a larger complex known as the Village Hub with ongoing classes in Hawaiian arts and crafts, dance, music, and yoga, so there will be plenty for companions who don’t play the ‘ukulele to do as well.

bamboo-restaurantThe little town of Hawi also has a lot to commend it: a number of great restaurants within walking distance (if the food at the Inn is not sufficient;) a coffee shop; and some fun little stores to poke around in, including a very well-stocked ‘ukulele store full of vintage ‘ukuleles and Hawaiian shirts!  It’s just minutes away from some fabulous swimming beaches, wonderful spots for snorkeling, and lovely hikes down to secluded beaches and valleys. And we’ll finally get to have our ‘ukulele beach barbecue! hapuna_sraThere are also myriad opportunities for adventure: horseback riding, ATV tours, or tubing down a water flume. And just a little farther away are the beautiful beaches of the Kohala Coast (deemed by many to be the most beautiful beaches in the world) and the rolling ranch lands of the paniolo. What’s not to like?

We are still in the process of building the staff and the program right now, but in the meantime I thought you might want to pencil in the dates on your calendar: October 11 – 17, 2015 or register to attend! It’s a brand new ‘ukulele adventure, on Hawai’i’s youngest, and biggest, island. I hope you’ll join us!

Meet Robyn Kneubuhl

Robyn copy

We are thrilled, delighted, and honored to welcome Robyn Mahealani Kneubuhl to the staff of the 2014 Hawai’i Island Ukulele Retreat, October 20 -26, 2014.  An accomplished musician and dancer (and adored by her students), she has a musical lineage that goes way back.  Her mother,  Emma Veary, was a headliner at the Monarch Room of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Halekulani, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and frequent a frequent guest star on the original “Hawai`i Five-O.” Her mother’s musical gifts were not wasted on Robyn, who embodies the beauty of the golden days of Waikiki through her music and dance.

Robyn is a life-long stuRobyn, Hula croppeddent of Hawaiian arts and culture, a composer, hula  and `ukulele instructor, generous with her time and talent, and eager to share her knowledge with her students. Robyn currently resides on Maui and is one third of the “Hula Honeys” who have three CD’s out: Life Just Got Sweeter,  Girl Talk, and A Hui Hou. Robyn has taught hula and `ukulele for Lark Camp and Keola Beamer’s Aloha Music Camps and has joined us several times at  Wine Country ‘Ukulele Festival. It only seems natural to have her us join us on Hawai’i Island in October, for the  Hawai’i Island Ukulele Retreat.

 Here’s a little sample from the Hula Honeys’ Life Just Got Sweeter CD:

Registration for the Hawai’i Island Ukulele Retreat is now open and all lodging categories are still available.  But you should act fast to make sure you get all the options you want.

Retreat Registration