Ukuleles Keep Music Alive


With all the negativity in the news lately, it was nice to see the headline, “Keeping Music Alive.” Both West Hawaii Today and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald recently ran articles about the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival and the Hawaii based Music for Life Foundation. These two non-profits came together to improve students’ access to music education by donating 20 Kala “Waterman” ukuleles to Kealakehe Intermediate School in Kailua-Kona.

Research has found that exposure to music at an early age promotes learning other subjects and enhances skills that children use in other areas. “A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, Executive Director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation.

Music for Life Foundation’s Executive Director Leo Daquioag agrees, and says that keeping music alive in our schools is vitally important, not only for the children, but for families and the community as well.

Photo credit: Music For Life Foundation

In a recent interview, Daquioag told me about his organization’s goals. “When it comes to budget concerns”, Daquioag said, “music and art programs are usually the first to be cut in schools. I’m sure you heard about the reports that show how music helps with cognitive learning. I’ve met a lot of executives who refer back to their days of being in a school band, and how music has contributed to their success. When I went to elementary school in Hawaii, music education was a requirement, and we all had the opportunity to play the ukulele. A lot of us enjoyed it and took it up later in life.”

Above: Kala’s “The Waterman” (sea foam green) ukulele

Genette Freeman, Development Director for the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, said that Daquioag approached her with the idea of a ukulele donation, and was looking for a deserving Big Island school, but it had to have a music program with music teacher. “Some schools on the Big Island unfortunately don’t meet that criteria,” added Freeman.

Through the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival’s connections, Freeman was able to put Daquioag in touch with Bernaldo Evangelista, Kealakehe Intermediate School’s band, orchestra teacher. As it turned out, Evangelista was looking to start a music program. “Although it took us a year to put it together, it was a perfect fit,” Freeman noted.

In addition to the instrument donation, ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro has added a private 10-minute lesson for one of Kealakehe’s students who is in the ukulele class. “Through a drawing, the school selected a 12 year-old girl who will come for her lesson before Shimabukuro’s concert on January 12 at the Fairmont Orchid Ballroom.”

If you go

Ukulele star Jake Shimabukuro will perform a benefit for the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival on January 12, 2018 at the Fairmont Orchid Resort, at 7PM. Please note the only tickets still available are at $85 for general admission.

Buy tickets here

To learn more about the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival and their music programs, visit:

For more information on the Music For Life Foundation, please visit their website:

Feature photo by Kychan.


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