The tenth annual Maui Steel Guitar Festival was held under mostly sunny skies and breezy weather. A brief cloudburst, perhaps brought about by the appearance of Maui's Elvis tribute artist Darren Lee, forced the Saturday evening program indoors to the hotel's Kanahele Room as a precaution. Additional rain never materialized but the indoor venue proved to be a nice alternative to the outdoor stage.
The 2018 Festival was dedicated to the Memory of Senator Daniel K. Akaka who passed away the week prior to the festival. Senator Akaka was the father of HIMELE chairman Alan L. Akaka and had attended the Maui festival several times in past years. Alan continued with his participation because "That's what dad would want. Now he is able to be at all of our festivals," said Alan.
School presentations were made on Thursday at Seabury Hall by Geri Valdriz and on Friday at King Kekaulike High School by Greg Sardinha, Kalama Intermediate School by Bobby Ingano and Alexis Tolentino, Kihei Charter School by Daniel Tremblay, and Lahaina Intermediate School by Alan Akaka and the Next Generation steel guitarists and musicians. All presentations were met with enthusiastic students who didn't want the presentations to end.
The festival at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel kicked off at 10:30 Friday with the open stage program featuring several steel guitar musicians and steel guitar music schools from Japan. In a surprise development, open stage steel guitarist Troy Brenningmeyer performed Greg Sardinha's Ka Nohona Pili Kai, while Greg himself played backup guitar. Said Greg, "I had developed this special guitar arrangement for the song but I never got to play it because I'm always playing the steel on this song." The performance can been on Troy's YouTube video of his set here.
In another surprise development, Troy was introduced by fellow steel guitarist Alexis Tolentino who made her debut as open stage announcer. The 19-year old multi-talented Alexis also performed with Ke Kula Mele, in her own ho'olaule'a set, and as a hula dancer for several other featured performers. She was also a member of the school visitation team to Kalama Intermediate School.
Festival guests were surprised by an appearance of Maui's Elvis tribute artist Darren Lee, star of the Burn'n Love production. Burn'n Love is the longest running Elvis tribute show in the world. Lee sang several numbers, including Blue Suede Shoes, Blue Hawaii, Can't Help Falling In Love, and finished with his trademark Burning Love. Lee was backed by Joel Katz on guitar, Greg Sardinha on steel guitar, and Addison Ching on U-bass.
The Friday evening program opened with members of the Yokohama Hawaiian Music Academy and were followed by the Next Generation steel guitarists and musicians from Alan Akaka's Ke Kula Mele Hawaii School of Hawaiian Music. Next Generation steel guitarist Pono Fernandez made his debut on Maui and was joined by fellow Next Generation musicians Joey and Tai Misailidis and Malie Lyman. Alexis Tolentino, Tadashi Arakawa, Geri Valdriz, and Kiyoshi "Lion" Kobayashi from Japan completed the Friday program.
In addition to Saturday open stage performances, festival guests also had the option of attending steel guitar workshops offered by Alan Akaka, Bobby Ingano, Greg Sardinha, and Patti Maxine.
Festival guests were also entertained by Joel Katz in the hotel's lobby, and by impromptu kanikapila featuring hotel staff and Next Generation musicians in the hotel's newly-created Hale Ho'okipa Hawaiian Culture room.
The Saturday evening program featured a different mix of steel guitarists including Dave "DK" Kolars from Illinois, Joel Katz, Greg Sardinha, Alan Akaka, Patti Maine, and Bobby Ingano. The program was moved indoors to the hotel's Kanahele Room due to the threat of rain.
Evening guest kanikapila sessions held after Friday and Saturday evening programs were well-attended by featured artists, Next Generation musicians, other festival musicians, and festival guests. The kanikapila also featured hula by special guests and a flutist.
The Sunday festival at Kahului's Queen Ka'ahamanu Center was highly successful. The indoor venue provided a large stage, ample audience seating, and attracted a large number of local residents as well as festival guests who drove from Lahaina to enjoy the last day of the festival. The Sunday program featured a lineup of ten of the Lahaina festival ho'olaule'a steel guitarists between 11 AM and 4 PM. A representative from Mayor Alan M. Arakawa's office presented a proclamation to the festival declaring the week of April 9-15, 2018, as Maui Steel Guitar Appreciation Week.
A new feature of the festival was a steel guitar demonstration table, where festival guests could learn more about the steel guitar and have a hands-on experience under the guidance of the festival's Daniel Tremblay. A vintage steel guitar exhibit curated by Geri Valdriz was presented in the center's Story of Hawaii museum.
The annual Maui Steel Guitar Festival is presented by Arts Education for Children Group (AECG), the Hawaii Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences (HIMELE), the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, and the Queen Ka'ahamanu Center. The festival receives grant support from the Hawaii Tourism Authority and is supported in part by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts through appropriations from the Legislature of the State of Hawaii and by the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from various corporate and private donors.
Photo Credits: Queen Ka'ahamanu Center - Addison Ching; all other photos - Don Touchi
Photo 1 - Troy Brenningmeyer with Addison Ching, Greg Sardinha, and Bobby Ingano.
Photo 2 - Yokohama Hawaiian Music Adademy
Photo 3 - Audience at Queen Ka'ahamanu Center
February 16, 2019 - Ka Makana Ali'i Shopping Center, Kapolei
Kaua'i Steel Guitar Festival
March 1-2, 2019 - Sheraton Hotel, Kapa'a, Kaua'i (formerly Courtyard Kaua'i at Coconut Beach)
Maui Steel Guitar Camp
TBD - Maui site
Maui Steel Guitar Festival
TBD - Maui site
TBD - Queen Ka'ahumanu Center, Kahului, Maui
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Windward Mall
June 8, 2019 (tentative) - Windward Mall, Kaneohe
Royal Hawaiian Center Presents Waikiki Steel Guitar Week
July 15-20, 2019
Monday-Thursday - Nightly Evening Performances
Friday-Saturday - Festival Ho'olaule'a Performances
Royal Grove Stage, Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikiki
Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festival at Kahala Mall - Keiki Kine
August 17, 2019 - Kahala Mall, Honolulu
Hawai'i Island Steel Guitar Festival
December 6-8, 2019 - Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, Kohala Coast, Hawai'i (formerly Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows)
HIMELE is a Hawai'i non-profit corporation that supports music enrichment and education for people of all ages. Our purpose is to educate, promote, and perpetuate Hawaiian music, Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian musical instruments.