Highlights of 2019

Kaunoa classesI gave a PowerPoint presentation on “Highlights of 2019” at the 7th Annual Ukulele Mele Christmas Party on Wednesday, December 18 at Kaunoa Senior Center in Spreckelsville, Maui.

This was my 10th year of teaching ‘ukulele classes and more at the Center for adults 55 and better. What started as a 6-month experiment at Kaunoa in January 2009 continues to evolve as we share the joy of making music together.

Here is a summary:

Two highlights of the year stand out:
1. The Hawaiian Serenaders presented a “Pop and Jazz Ukulele Concert” on Thursday, August 22 co-sponsored by the University of Hawaii Statewide Cultural Extension Program. There was a full-house of sixty-eight people with one person coming from Hana (over 2 1/2 hours away) to celebrate her birthday. We played twenty-four songs with the concert lasting 1 ½ hours rather than the usual 45-minutes.
2. The Hawaiian Serenaders were asked to give our second consecutive “Hawaiian Style Christmas Concert” for the monthly Picnic for Poki Hawaiian Music Series in Wailuku on Thursday, December 19. Eight hula dancers from Na Hula Kupuna O Kaunoa joined us for 6 of the 20 songs we performed lasting over 1 hour. (Photo above taken in 2018)

I had planned 93 classes for the year but actually taught 63. Thirty classes were canceled – 2 because of sickness, 6 because not enough signups, 1 because office didn’t advertise so offer withdrawn, and 21 because I withdrew before the classes were advertised.

Advanced ‘Ukulele class and ‘Ukulele Strumming 202 class continued to meet twice a month on alternating Wednesdays throughout the year. Students received emailed song sheets of my arrangements and could play along to over 100 audio recordings produced by my husband and I on my website’s online Fan Club, with a new song curriculum averaging 10 songs every quarter. Advanced ‘Ukulele class met for 20 classes learning 51 songs and ‘Ukulele Strumming 202 class met for 18 classes learning 44 songs. My husband came to all classes to play along for 2-hours on his u-bass.

New ‘ukulele classes were open for anyone to sign up:
1. February. ‘Ukulele Strumming 101 for 3 Monday 2-hour classes used my Sing-Along Songs Vol 1 packaged set of Book/DVD/CD of 6 songs with 8 strumming styles for $40 or digital download $30.
2. March. ‘Ukulele Strumming 101 for 3 Monday 2-hour classes used my Sing-Along Songs Vol 2 packaged set of Book/DVD/CD of 6 songs with 8 strumming styles for $40 or digital download $30.
3. April 4. Hawaiian Songs for 4 Monday 2-hour classes used my Nostalgic Hawaiian Songs Vol. 1 packaged set of Book/DVD/CD of 6 songs with 8 strumming styles for $40. (No digital download available as users had too many problems).

The Sing-Along with Mele Fong Series continued with my husband singing and accompanying on u-bass for the 2-hour classes. Monthly themes were Maui Nui, paniolo, new -Broadway, hula, flowers and lei, small kid time, patriotic, island songs, new – rock ‘n’ roll, new – international, new – American classics, and Christmas songs as part of the 7th Annual Christmas party. New this year, a student took video for the entire length of a song and I posted some of them on my YouTube channel to show the fun we were having singing and playing music together.

NEW Island Stories and Song Series (lecture and sing-along) for 2-hour classes was scheduled on the 5th Wednesdays of the month (except for July that was withdrawn because the office made a mistake and the class announcement was not advertised in the newsletter):
1. January. Oahu Island.
2. May. Big Island.
3. October. Heritage Sites of Honolulu (included history of the monarchy).

The Maui Ukulele Pops Band performed at the 12th Annual Maui ‘Ukulele Guild Exhibition on Saturday, November 9 at Queen Kaahumanu Center. My husband and I led my students from my Advanced ‘Ukulele class in singing and playing 9 songs for our 30-minute set. New this year, The Hawaiian Serenaders played 10 songs for our 30-minute set to fill in for Kalama Intermediate School Ukulele Band that couldn’t make it this year. We were lucky because my voice returned just that morning after being sick for a week.

On another note, 2019 was also the year to continue “ramping down” my business Ukulele Mele On Maui by closing the online store and changing my website to reflect those changes by the end of the year. This meant online subscription lessons for beginners, intermediate and advanced ukulele players, 55 single song downloadable lessons, and 6 packaged song sets of Book/DVD/CD were no longer offered in 2019. (Private lessons and ukulele workshops at Hale Ho’ike’ike at the Bailey House were no longer offered in 2018). Plus, the last issue of my monthly e-newsletter UKE News You Can Use to mainland and local subscribers was December 2019, but monthly newsletters to Kaunoa subscribers will continue in 2020. It’s been fun to read student testimonials and reflect through the years of meeting my mission to “share the joy of making music one ‘ukulele player at-a-time.” Stay tuned for a new website look in 2020.

Next year in 2020 I plan to offer new classes at Kaunoa titled Ukulele Mele Basics and ‘Ukulele Strumming 101 using a different format without requiring the purchase of a packaged song set with Book/DVD/CD for the curriculum.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

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Mele Fong is a professional singer, song arranger, and master of multiple strumming styles for the 'ukulele. She is an experienced educator with over 50+ years experience playing the 'ukulele and entertaining worldwide. Mele performs with her husband in the duo "The Hawaiian Serenaders" and leads student groups. In 1996, the duo represented the State of Hawai'i in concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Mele and her husband Richard Tom were both born and raised on Oahu and now reside in Maui.