October 21, 2017

Haumana: A Student’s Journey through Hawaiian Music and Steel Guitar

Ed. note: This is the first installment of an ongoing feature that will be authored by Steve Tylka. Here Steve will share his journey as he learns about the Hawaiian steel guitar. Steve hopes his experiences will benefit anyone thinking about embracing this instrument that’s so very important to Hawaiian music and culture .

Aloha Friends,

I first experienced steel guitar in the 1990s while enjoying a family vacation in Waikiki. We spent most of our days under the shade of a Banyan tree behind the Moana Surfrider hotel. During the day hotel staff played Hawaiian music over the hotel’s public address system which was followed by an afternoon filled with live performances by local steel guitarists. It immediately occurred to me that I was experiencing something magical and to this day I have been unable to mind music as beautiful and rich as that I have experienced on the beach of Waikiki.

Growing up in a musical family, I was encouraged to seek out lessons after acquiring my first steel guitar. While searching online I came across lessonswithtroy.com, a website offering numerous steel guitar classes. Troy Brenningmeyer guides the student step by step through his arrangements of many classic songs, offering demonstrations of the material covered in his video lessons. As I progressed through Troy’s website I learned of another steel player offering video courses similar to those I had grown accustomed to. Mike Neer’s website, “Steelin’ From The Masters,” introduces Mike’s views on steel guitar as well as his skill as an arranger. In utilizing both websites I was able to develop a better understanding of the steel guitar while gaining confidence to move forward in my studies.

It wasn’t long before I sought out formal lessons on steel guitar. I quickly discovered Alan Akaka’s Ke Kula Mele School of Hawaiian music. Being a fan of Hawaiian music and Hawaiian Steel Guitar I was familiar with Alan Akaka and his many achievements. I quickly arranged my first steel guitar lesson and have been a studying under Kumu (teacher) Alan regularly ever since. In studying under Kumu Alan Akaka, I have gained tools which allow me to grow as an instrumentalist. Alan nurtures and develops the musical abilities of each student while providing opportunities to demonstrate ones skill as a developing musician at his annual Steel Guitar festivals throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

In closing, I would like to thank everyone I have met through the steel guitar community. I have discovered an extension of myself which seemed just beyond my grasp. Mahalo to Alan Akaka, Troy Brenningmeyer, Mike Neer, and Addison Ching for everything you do for the steel guitar community! I look forward to writing more in the future, and I hope this article finds all of you in good health.

Until next time friends,

Aloha

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