Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival
Thurs-Sat, Sept 21-23, 2017
Featuring Alan Akaka
In Fort Collins, Colorado, home of Colorado State University and gateway to the northern Rocky Mountains. For the past 30 years, HSGA has held an annual gathering where members showcase their musicianship, teach each other, jam, and listen to world class Hawaiian Steel guitar. Public invited!
Videos of the festival performances
are now on YouTube! Watch them all!
click flyer picture to enlarge or download the pdf
By HSGA President Frank Della-Penna
Aloha kakou greetings! What an exciting and productive festival we had this past September in Fort Collins. Our Guest Artist Alan Akaka presented the best in Hawaiian music with his vocals and instrumentals. For those who don’t know, Alan has a long history performing at venues such as the Hawaiian Regent Hotel (now the Marriott) and the Halekūlani Hotel with Hawaiian music icons, Sonny Kamahele, Benny Kalama, Genoa Keawe, the Keawe ‘Ohana, and many others. I was there for some of these amazing performances. Alan performed every day of the festival, led a steel guitar workshop on Saturday, and was the feature performer at our big floorshow following the Saturday Night Lūʻau. As many of you know, Eddie Palama was slated to be our guest artist but had to cancel his trip due to health concerns.
Writes Jackie Luongo, “Big mahalos go out to Alan for first coming to Fort Collins on such short notice, and then sharing his musical abilities and extensive theoretical knowledge in such an educational and enlightening way.”
Performances by Kaua‘i pros Ed Punua and his father Victor Punua are a regular feature of our recent festivals. But this year, attendees were treated to the talents of the greater Punua ‘Ohana.
Writes Ed, “The 2017 HSGA Hawaiian Music Festival was fun for the Punua ‘Ohana as we were able to attend together as a family: Grampa Vic [Victor Punua], my wife Vanessa and our two youngest children, Lilikalani and Leimomi. Usually they hear all about the festival when we get back home; this year they were able to experience it for themselves. It was great to see steel guitar friends again this year, relax in the Colorado community, listen to the sharing and the love of the Hawaiian steel guitar, and laugh with Alan Akaka and his ‘Mainland Islanders’. Looking forward to hopefully seeing everyone again next year!” Ed’s son Lilikalani is hot on his father’s footsteps as a performing Hawaiian steel guitar artist and was a real crowd pleaser at this year’s festival. He is a Kamehameha School graduate and now attends Kauaʻi Community College pursuing a degree in accounting.
Other notable member performances this year included Roberto Alaniz on steel with brother Jorge on rhythm guitar, giving eclectic performances of Hawaiian tunes and popular songs using a multi-track recording system. Artist, musician and wood carver Keoni Lagunero displayed his ‘ukulele technique and joined in with vocal harmonies during a brief but very enjoyable appearance. It was great to have Gerald Ross back with us this year providing expert backup on rhythm guitar and choice solo performances on steel guitar and ʻukulele.
Our popular workshops consisted of five sessions covering a wide variety of topics.
Hawaiian language expert Philip Joseph Kahaunaele Swain used a whiteboard to display guidance on pronunciation that one would use for reciting Hawaiian lyrics and speaking in the Hawaiian language. Philip discussed commonly used phrases in Hawaiian poetry and lyrics.
Chris Kennison taught C6th steel techniques and focused on forward and reverse bar slants, which is the sole method for altering chords on the Hawaiian guitar. It’s a real challenge to figure out the correct slant angle, which varies continuously as you move up and down the fretboard!
Mark Kahalekulu explored several tunings and fingerpicking styles in his slack key class. The slack key guitar, which demands a coordinated effort to play bass runs while executing the melody, was made easy in Mark’s class.
Stuart Yoshida’s class covered ʻukulele as both a rhythm and solo instrument. If you missed Stuart’s class, go to YouTube and search on ‘Stuart Yoshida and Hawaiian style ukulele’. Also, take a listen to Eddie Kamae or Ohta-san. Check out Ohta-san’s version of “Star Dust” for an example of his ‘ukulele technique.
Special this year was Alan Akaka’s workshop on Pa‘ani and Fills for steel guitar, demonstrating how to use fill-ins to complement a vocal. Students kept busy reading the charts Alan prepared, as they played like true professionals. Alan taught improvisation through the use of rhythmic variation, chord substitution and general theory. Delving further into Alan’s class, Jackie Luongo wrote, “This C6th-based workshop was very hands-on and lots of information was covered. In just under an hour, Kumu Alan got a roomful of beginner and intermediate players playing a Hawaiian vamp and chord progressions in unison while he played ‘Henehene Kou Aka’. Amazing as that was, the takeaway was that you can choose practically any of the fills, even changing the order you play them in, and still not conflict with the melody. You can even combine them to make an improvised solo. Alan inadvertently taught me how to trick people into thinking I’m a good player! “Playing Hawaiian steel guitar fills quickly captures the attention of an audience, invoking the listener to imagine the South Pacific. As such, I found it very helpful for choosing notes and chords that add musical ‘atmosphere’ to a Hawaiian event. Best of all, the workshop was free with festival registration.”
Saturday Night Lūʻau Floorshow
Our fine show band this year consisted of Alan Akaka on steel guitar, Ed Punua and John Coelho on guitar, Philip Swain and Kamaka Tom on ʻukulele, and Mark Kahalekulu on bass. Wrote Tony Fourcroy, “Most of the guys are Kamehameha graduates and know each other well so we had some idea of how it was going to work. Alan then pulled everything together on Saturday to produce the floorshow. The best part about the Lūʻau this year was that the Hilton Hotel finally nailed the food!” Victor Punua joined Ed, Mark and Kamaka for some tight harmonies on the hula numbers as the audience viewed the stage with a magnificent backdrop of a fiery volcano.
Lūʻau show hula dancers were once again provided by Janna Alohalani Yoshimoto’s Northern Colorado Hula Studio with help from Susie Kalani Ki‘eki‘e Park-Kelly who runs a halau in Boulder. Dancers included Janna, Maile Bergknut, Veronica Brush, Susie Park-Kelly, Sammy Gundlach, Rene Beri and MaryAnn Ellis. A bonus this year were dancers from the Punua ‘Ohana: Ed Punua’s wife Vanessa and his daughter Leimomi, who danced together to the delight of all. Leimomi is an eleventh grade student at Kamehameha School.
Lūʻau Show Summary
“Hele On To Kaua‘i” (Alan Akaka)
“Aloha Week Hula” (Mark K., hula by Janna)
“Hula Breeze” (Alan Akaka, hula by Susie)
“Haleakalā Hula” (Ed Punua, hula by group)
“Somewhere in Hawaiʻi” (John Coelho)
“Hasegawa General Store” (Alan Akaka)
“Hanalei Moon” (Victor Punua, hula by Susie)
“Kuʻu Hoa” (Philip Swain, hula by Janna)
“Pua Hone” (Philip Swain, hula by group)
“Goodnight Leilani E” (Ed Punua)
“He Uʻi” (Ed Punua, hula by Vanessa)
“Show Me How To Do The Hula” (Ed, hula by Leimomi)
“Hawai‘i Aloha”/“Aloha ʻOe” (John Coelho)
Kudos to several who donated steel guitars to HSGA at this year’s festival! Non-member Steve Luscinski of Frederick, Maryland donated a custom-built console steel guitar that had been gathering dust in his closet for nearly 50 years. A silent auction was held and Ivan Reddington submitted the winning bid of $300 and promptly donated it to Alan Akaka for his students at Ke Kula Mele Hawaiʻi. At our annual membership meeting, I presented Guest of Honor Alan Akaka with my Dickerson steel guitar to take back with him to Hawaiʻi. The guitar will go to one of Alan’s fine “NextGen” students, Mālie Lyman. We got word at press time from Vice-President John Limbach that Margie Mays is also giving Alan Akaka a steel guitar for use in his school. She and Don are headed to Hawaiʻi in December and are planning on hand-delivering it to him.
Luthier Bob Moore was appointed to the HSGA Board at the membership meeting and will chair the HSGA Membership Committee. Thanks to member Roberto Alaniz and brother Jorge who started the effort to recruit new members by taking some fliers to the Music Department of Colorado State University. Thanks go to Roberto and Jorge also for donating some pictures of steel guitars and hula dancers. We raised $295 on tickets for those!
Additionally, we had several HSGA members volunteer for work on our committees. Joining Bob Moore on the Membership Committee are John Limbach, Roberto Alaniz, Larry Lenhart and Frank Della- Penna. The Scholarship Committee, chaired by John Limbach, includes Gerald Ross, Rick Aiello, Tony Fourcroy and Frank Della-Penna. Mahalo, all! Oh, and before we forget, we must thank John Mumford and Mike Wittmer for taking some great photos at this year’s festival!
Former HSGA board member and recording secretary Jackie Luongo wrote the following about our new Fort Collins venue that pretty well sums up our festival: “In September, as the scent of spruce spreads over Colorado, the soothing sounds of millions of aspen leaves resonates. It is only fitting that Fort Collins is the site for our HSGA mainland convention. The sounds of steel guitars are as instantly recognizable and unforgettable as the iconic fluttering leaves. Seeing old friends and new in the freshly renovated Hilton underscores how many of our members share the same attributes regardless of cultural background. What great people steel guitar players are, both the famous and the obscure!
“If I had to characterize our festival in one word, that word would be kokua, exemplified by the Hawaiian spirit of everyone coming together to help make something fantastic happen. See you next year!
About 2017 Festival Guest of Honor Alan Akaka
Alan Akaka (steel guitar) - Alan Akaka is from a family whose roots are deep in Hawaiian music. His father Senator Daniel K. Akaka, former director of the famous Kawaiaha‘o Church Choir, played an important role in Akakaʻs music beginnings and encouraged him through his development. His family gatherings, which included lots of music making, and music education at Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawai‘i further expanded his base in music. Alan established and directed the Kamehameha Middle School Nā 'Ōpio Singers and Hawaiian Ensemble. He was the director of the Performing Arts Academy at Kamehameha for 16 years. In 2009, he established Ke Kula Mele - School of Hawaiian music to provide a special environment where anyone (children through adults) who want to learn to play ‘ukulele, steel guitar, upright Hawaiian bass, and guitar are most welcome to pursue their dreams of playing an instrument and learning to sing Hawaiian songs.
As for the steel guitar, Akaka created his own sound and style, incorporating ideas and styles from the masters of steel - David Rogers, Benny Rogers, Jules Ah See, Billy Hew Len, David Keliʻi, Jake Keliʻikoa, and his teacher Jerry Byrd. He recorded with a number of artists including Genoa Keawe, Benny Kalama, Sonny Kamahele, Raiatea Helm, Kuana Torres Kahele, Randy Hongo, Owana, Nohelani Cypriano, Nina Kealiʻiwahamana, and Karen Keawehawai’i as well as with Sweden’s Simons and a number of Japan artists and groups. “How Dʻya Do” featuring the Islanders was a finalist at the 1987 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards and his solo album “Simply Steel” was a finalist at the 2010 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards.
Akaka led “The Islanders” featured at the Halekūlani's House Without A Key for over twenty years while concurrently performing with Genoa Keawe and the Keawe ʻOhana at the Waikīkī Beach Marriott Resort. He travels throughout the world as an artist and conducts Hawaiian music and steel guitar workshops through his “AkakaClub”. In 2012, Akaka was inducted in the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame along with fellow members of the Hawaiian language music group “Ka Leo Hawaiʻi”. In 2014, he was invited as a guest soloist at the International Steel Guitar Convention in St. Louis. In 2015, he traveled to Kolkata, India and was presented with an award at the India International Guitar Festival.
In 2015, Akaka established HIMELE – Hawai‘i Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences that supports music education and enrichment for people of all ages. Its purpose is to educate, promote and perpetuate Hawaiian music, Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian musical instruments by organizing and sponsoring annual Hawaiian steel guitar festivals on Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Maui and Hawaiʻi.
Akaka performs weekly at Duke‘s Waikīkī.
Hilton Fort Collins Hotel, 425 W Prospect Rd, Fort Collins, CO 80526
This event took place September 21-23, 2017. Stay tuned for 2018 details!
9am - Opening ceremony
Saturday Only! Workshops by HSGA members and invited experts... included with your ticket! Attendees may bring their instruments and attend as many as they wish!
|Saturday Night||Luau in the Main Ballroom $50 per person
6pm Cocktail/social hour with cash bar
7pm Delicious Polynesian style dinner! Kalua Pig, Huli Huli Chicken and traditional Hawaiian sides.
8pm Luau Show featuring Festival Guest of Honor Alan Akaka
Steel Guitars on Stage
Musicians sign up to play a 25 minute set of steel guitar. It's kind of like an open stage - but pre-planned with assigned playing slots each day. HSGA members get priority on all showcase stages.
All styles are welcome, but you will hear a lot of Hawaiian music. We want you to share your music. This is typically not a pedal steel showcase. The art of Hawaiian style steel playing on electric lap steels, resonator guitars, and acoustic instruments is the main focus of our event and organization.
If you wish to play on stage, you must register in advance. If you want to do a set on stage during the weekend, please sign up as you purchase your ticket online. For those registering by mail, paper registration forms will be included with the HSGA member newsletter .
Playing slots are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis. We'll try and take your preferences into account. All stage playing slots are planned and scheduled by the festival committee. All players will have 25 minutes to perform, and must bring at least two sets of charts for the backup musicians. You will need to round up your own backup folks from volunteers at the festival. Don't worry - there will be many folks willing to play guitar, or uke or bass for you. Or you can bring your own backup folks. AND, all performers MUST purchase either a day or weekend pass.
NOTICE FOR PLAYERS: All playing sessions are being professionally video recorded and uploaded as public to YouTube for use on the HSGA website and social media accounts. Unless artists decline, these videos will be used in the future to document our organization's events for learning and sharing. Please see Tony Fourcroy or Chris Kennison before the end of the festival if you wish to decline sharing your video with HSGA.
Saturday Night Luau with Guest Artist Alan Akaka
Join us at 6 for pre-luau musical entertainment, cash bar and social hour. At 7:00 enjoy a Polynesian-style dinner, then sit back and enjoy the Luau Floor Show at 8:00pm. Note: There is a separate $50 charge for the luau. Luau admission is not included with your festival registration. Guests are encouraged to wear their finest Aloha wear! Lots of fun - do NOT miss it. Luau is open to the public, too, as is the entire festival.
Call the Hilton Fort Collins at (970) 482-2626 - Block Room rates available.
DIA in Denver is the fly-to location. Many options exist out of DIA for transport to Ft. Collins. There are shuttle services, and rental cars.
Green Rides Airport Shuttle
Transportation to and from the airport to the Hilton. Reserve your ride online now or call them at 970-226-5533 and mention the HSGA Steel Event.
Can I join HSGA?
Please consider becoming a member of HSGA if you are not. Membership gets you a regular quarterly newsletter and price breaks at convention hotels and events.