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15th annual Ukulele and Slack Key Guitar Festival opens tonight

Updated: 
November 17, 2017 - 9:44am

KAILUA-KONA — Three days of steel guitar, Hawaiian mele and open jam sessions will fill the air as Hawaiian masters join forces to express their love music with island audiences starting tonight.

“It’s a great opportunity for all the artists who are involved to get out into the community and share our music and inspire more people to play Hawaiian music on the ukulele and guitar,” said Jeff Peterson, Grammy Award winner and one of this year’s performers at the 15th annual Waimea Ukulele and Slack Key Guitar Festival. “We want people, especially children, to get inspired by the music by hearing it live.”

The festivities kick off tonight at Kahilu Theatre and runs through Saturday. The show invites audience members to bring their instrument and play with the masters in a kanikapila-style jam session.

Friday night’s concert is a hoolaulea, as collaborative compositions of melodies both new and old that will be performed throughout the evening. On Saturday, Kahilu Theatre offers a selection of workshops led by the festival musicians, including lessons for ukulele, slack key guitar and bass. The finale is on Saturday evening when the musicians perform their final Hana Hou concert.

“On Thursday night, we invite the public to join us on stage,” said Peterson. “Anyone who wants to come and join the kanikapila can come up for this great tradition. We’ve done it for many years, and boy last year there were about 30 or 40 people on stage. There were mainly ukulele players, but there was also a violin player and a saxophone player and a keyboard player. It was a blast.”

One of the goals of the festival is to educate school children and inspire them to pick up an instrument and start playing whatever music they love. Last year’s festival musicians performed for more than 1,500 students.

“One of the most important things we do as part of this festival is go to different schools and do performances and education programs for children who don’t have access to hear live music,” said Peterson. “Many have lost their music programs or they’re in smaller schools that don’t have a thorough music program, so this year we’ve expanded the reach of the schools that we go to.”

Other performers at the festival include Sonny Lim, Nathan Aweau, Benny Chong, Ledward Kaapana, Mike Kaawa, Iaukea Bright, and special guest Abe Lagrimas Jr.

“What I love about the ukulele, it’s a very social instrument,” said Peterson. “You can pick up the instrument and literally, in just a few sessions of studying, be playing songs very easily. It’s easy to learn and it’s great to play in groups of other people. It’s amazing to see how it brings people together.”

Ticket prices are Thursday: $23/$13 with instrument, Friday: $68/$48/$25, and Saturday: $68/$48/$25. For a full listing of events and activities, and to purchase tickets, visit www.kahilutheatre.org, or call 885-6868.

Info: Visit www.kahilutheatre.org.

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