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!