MEMORABLE MOMENTS – CLICK ON A PHOTO for the story behind it
“I learned more from one group lesson from you than at 19 lessons I have taken at home in Vancouver.” “I return every week just to hear you sing.” “I bought a new Mele Ukulele at The Shops at Wailea because of my experience at Mixed Plate.” These were just some of the comments from people who attended the eight Ukulele Mixed Plate events that we did from January 7 – April 8 in the fountain courtyard with both the stage area and audience exposed to the elements (no cover outside).
Our basic format was part professional entertainment and part teaching group ‘ukulele lessons for 1 ½ hours, with bonus hula dancing. We coordinated five events with a Youth Showcase, and three events without. During the Youth Showcase, we provided sound support for 22 individuals performing as soloists or in groups, from 12-21 years-old, and from 12 different schools. We were allowed to have a sales table that I shared with Mele Ukulele store that had instruments available for people to use for free during the group ‘ukulele lesson. We sold 17 packaged song sets and 11 Hawaiian Serenaders CDs, plus some people scheduled lessons because of their experiences at Ukulele Mixed Plate. Many people returned week after week, which was really heartwarming to see. Here’s a summary of this business venture.
December 8, 2014. Cheryl Rock, owner of Mele Ukulele store called asking for my help coordinating ukulele activities without paying for our services on the first, second, and fourth Wednesdays of the month at The Shops at Wailea as requested by the shops general manager, Bob Dye. In The Shops budget, they only pay for the third Wednesday of the month when they hire headliners from 6:30-8 p.m. Mele Ukulele store had just expanded from Wailuku by opening a new store in Wailea the month before. On December 11, my husband and I met with Cheryl at Bob’s office where I came up with the phrase “Ukulele Mixed Plate” to describe the new event. The concept was Youth Showcase from 6-6:30, professional ‘ukulele entertainment by The Hawaiian Serenaders 6:30-7:15, and then group ‘ukulele lesson by Ukulele Mele 7:15-8 p.m., all for free to the public. We didn’t sign any contract knowing we would be providing our professional entertainment and teaching services without getting paid.
January 7, 2015. First event from 6-8 p.m. As requested, I recruited young players for the Youth Showcase for the first half-hour, looking for youth who could play, sing, and have good stage presence. We also supported their sound amplification needs, as well as our own since The Shops did not provide a sound guy to run the PA system. We had small groups and soloists from Kalama Intermediate School, home schooled, Mele Ukulele store, Seabury Hall High School Hawaiian ensemble, group of five 12-year-old girls from Hawaiian emersion schools, and high school student winners from the annual Maui Youth Ukulele Contest. I coordinated their performances for five events through February 11. I also educated the audience about the ‘ukulele when my husband was changing the setup for our sound needs so there wasn’t any dead air between the transitions from the youth showcase to our performance and then teaching time.
February 25. First event without the youth showcase. Without needing to support the youth showcase sound needs, it was easier to setup and leave everything in place for our performance. Thus, we had more time for our show and to teach ‘ukulele. As a result, my helpers from the Maui Ukulele Pops Band who play and dance hula had time for 3 rather than 2 hula during our Hawaiian Serenaders show set.
April 8. First with an MC and my first hula. Mele Ukulele hired an MC to start and end the program, and to run the sound system for the acts that went before and after us. This was also the first time that I danced two hulas to my husband singing and playing my ‘ukulele (rather than his ‘ukulele bass), plus I invited a person from the audience to come up and join me when I saw her doing hula movements with her hands.
April 14. Mele Ukulele asked us to take a break. The event had ran smoothly from our perspective, with large crowds of about 80-120 people attending at any given night. “It was jammed,” is what one of the maintenance workers who setup the 50 chairs for the audience told his supervisor when asked early on how the event was going.
In summary, we attained our goal of showing people the diversity of music that can be played on ‘ukulele and how much fun the instrument is to play. We received many compliments, sold some merchandise, and brought in new ‘ukulele players into my worldwide network. When everyone was rocking out while playing the medley of La Bamba/Twist and Shout with Latin Strum, it was a lot of fun!
Aloha, Mele Fong, aka Ukulele Mele