Review Ukulele Mele Music Week

Les presents a lei to Mele at the Island Party on November 18

“The best was Ukulele Week which was so much fun – I love it,” wrote Les Perreira referring to a special week of ‘ukulele classes and concerts from November 12 – 19 to celebrate my 7th year of teaching at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better and my 5th year in business as Ukulele Mele On Maui.

In the hopes of attracting new students to my classes at Kaunoa Senior Center, I planned a special singing class and special ‘ukulele class to learn the 9 Hawaiian Island songs for the group sing/play along at the end of the week’s culminating event called “Mele’s Island Party.” I used PowerPoint to project the words and ‘ukulele chords onto the screen at the front of the room so everyone looked forward rather than down at their song sheets. I was pleased that new people came in addition to students from my continuing ‘ukulele classes who signed up for the entire week. Here is a summary of the week’s special classes at Kaunoa:

32 came to Mele’s Island Party (the culminating event) at Kaunoa Senior Center for Ukulele Mele Music Week

  1. Monday, November 14 from 9 – 11 a.m. Fifteen people came to my special singing class. We went over the stories behind the songs, how to pronounce the Hawaiian lyrics, and sang each song at least twice as they learned the songs without needing to read music. Some of my ‘ukulele students brought their instruments and played along. There were some new faces and one lady who said she came because she liked my program on “Na Lani Eha – The Four Royals” about Hawaiian history and singing Hawaiian songs which I gave the previous month. Success!
  2. Tuesday, November 15 from 9 – 11 a.m. Seventeen people came to my special ‘ukulele class. It was difficult to teach without song sheets showing the chord shapes and strum graphic showing the rhythm pattern which I provide in my ‘ukulele classes, but we managed. This method was the real deal of the old Hawaiian way of “watch, listen, play” without reading music and it worked! One current ‘ukulele student commented on how much easier it was to learn this way rather than looking at paper. New students who I never had before in my ‘ukulele classes came and had fun which is what I had hoped for.
  3. Wednesday, November 16 from 8 – 10 a.m. Ten students came to my regularly scheduled continuing class called “Ukulele Strumming 202.” We reviewed the songs for the end of the week event referring to the printed song sheets which is such a different learning experience from PowerPoint. As a class they sounded good. Horray!
  4. Thursday, November 17 from 10 – noon. Twenty people came to The Hawaiian Serenaders “Story of the ‘Ukulele and Concert.” My husband and I are fortunate to be on the list of artists available for hire through the University of Hawai’i Statewide Cultural Extension Program. We met the program’s educational requirements by giving a 20-minute talk on the history of the ‘ukulele in addition to showing the different types of instruments from our private collection. We performed 17 songs showcasing different musical genres as we traveled through time from the 1800’s to the 1970s and beyond including a parody that we made up for the Maui Marathon. I know that every so often I need to perform in front of an audience and just play music without having to worry about playing simply so my students can follow me. I do enjoy entertaining with my husband and hearing appreciative comments from the audience.
  5. Friday, November 18 from 10 – noon. Thirty two people came to “Mele’s Island Party.” It was rewarding to look out and see so many people playing their ‘ukulele and singing during the group sing/play along portion to 9 island songs. Seven members of the Maui Ukulele Pops Band from my Advanced ‘Ukulele class performed 10 songs including two women who also danced three hulas. I was proud to announce that some members have been with me since I first started teaching at Kaunoa in January 2009 and that two members just started. While on stage, it was fun to see a student still has her graduation diploma and to reminisce about the Alumni Club card good for a lifetime of ‘ukulele fun and fellowship that I used to give at the end of my Ukulele Beyond the Basics 6-month courses. I think it’s a good idea for seniors to play for seniors and to inspire them with what is possible with practice. My students are my ultimate walking testimonials to my ‘ukulele teaching abilities.

Sitting: Andrea, Claudia, Beverly. Standing: Apo, Charles, Kelcy, Kathleen, and us performed at the Island Party

All in all I feel good about the experiences that I provided my current and new students at Kaunoa Senior Center. It’s all about lifelong learning and having fun together. I make it a point to thank my students for being open to learning new things because if they weren’t willing, I wouldn’t be teaching. And I enjoy teaching and seeing the “a-hah” moments when a student gets it.

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.