Review April ‘Ukulele Workshops

Happy student from Canada

Happy Barb got another book/DVD/CD

“I miss you already,” said Barb Shields from Canada as she was leaving the second ‘Ukulele Strumming Workshop I gave at the 7th annual Maui Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel on Saturday, April 25. Barb and I first met on Wednesday, April 8 when we entertained and gave free group ‘ukulele lessons as part of Ukulele Mixed Plate events at the Shops at Wailea. Since then, Barb scheduled two private ‘ukulele lessons, and then brought her sister to the Saturday workshop. At the end of that workshop, Barb requested that Rich and I sing for everyone because she wanted her sister to hear us. We obliged by performing the Hawaiian song “Kupa Landing” and the hapa haole song “Beyond the Reef.”

'Ukulele Workshops in April

Three ‘Ukulele Workshops at Steel Guitar Festival

This was my third year of giving ‘ukulele workshops at the festival, and the second under the leadership of Alan Akaka of Ke Kula Mele Hawaiian School of Hawaiian Music (from Oahu). New this year, I gave three rather than two workshops on Saturday, and The Hawaiian Serenaders did not perform on stage at the Sunday Brunch. Thus, we did not stay overnight at the hotel (as in previous years) and left the festival right after my last workshop. As it turned out, being outside all day in the voggy air wore us out, so it was good to go home to cool upcountry Maui. When the volcanoes on the Big Island erupt and the wind blows from the south, we call the conditions vog and it is sometimes difficult to breathe.

Festival volunteer Dave

Festival volunteer Dave handed out free ukes

New this year, festival organizers wanted people to give their name, hometown, and email at each workshop they attended so there would be paper records. In anticipation of that need, I asked and was given permission to post online links from the festival website directly to my website for advance registration. A friend commented that out of all the free workshops offered at the festival, mine were the only ones where a person could pre-register. Another first was having a helper from the festival who was in charge of handing out free instruments borrowed from the hotel as needed at my workshops:

1st Workshop: 9-10:15 a.m. Five people registered, but 15 total signed in.
2nd Workshop: 11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. Four people registered, but 15 total signed in.
3rd Workshop: 2-3:00 p.m. Seven people registered, but 13 total signed in.

As a result of pre-registering online, there was one person who scheduled a private lesson before and one person who scheduled two private lessons for after the workshops. Some people who walked into the first workshop had so much fun that they came back for the second workshop. Our numbers of participants were definitely higher than what we saw at some other workshops. We’re happy that learning to play the ‘ukulele is so popular. We hope to be invited back to teach ‘ukulele at the 8th festival April 15-17, 2016.

Aloha, Mele Fong, aka Ukulele Mele


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.