Steel Trappings

The Garden Island Feature Story

Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival opens Friday

March 2, 2020 • Dennis FujimotoFestivals and Conventions

Ed. Note: The following article appeared in the February 28, 2020, edition of The Garden Island. The article is reprinted here with permission from The Garden Island. ©2020 The Garden Island and

Two days of steel-guitar artistry are on tap at the Sheraton Kaua‘i Coconut Beach Resort when the Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival opens at noon today.

Ethan Goore and Pono Fernandez
Ethan Goore of the Big Island and Pono Fernandez, a student at Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama ready their steel guitar for Kika Pila, the introduction to the Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival, Thursday evening at Duke's.
Photo by Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

The gathering features workshops, exhibits and a kanikapila with steel-guitar masters and the next generation of musicians, and concludes Saturday.

Kaua'i artists Heu‘i Bandmann and Kaua‘i Fire Department Captain Kilipaki Vaughan are among those scheduled for individual performances during the open stage segments today and Saturday.

The Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival is presented free to the public by the Hawaii Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences in association with Ke Kula Mele Hawai‘i School of Hawaiian Music, with partial funding from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority through the Kukulu Ola Program, and Hawaiian Airlines.

Joey Misailidis
Joey Misailidis, a ninth-grade student at Punahou School, readies her steel guitar for the Kika Pila, the introduction to the Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival, Thursday evening at Duke's Canoe Club on Kalapaki Beach.
Photo by Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island Photo

The festival is presented ahead of the annual Aloha Music Camp and is designed to be an extension of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar experience that is offered as part of the Aloha Music Camp.

Bandmann, who started playing her first lesson with Alan Akaka on her 23rd birthday, is scheduled to perform Friday afternoon with Ginger Kamalei Hilliard, who is learning the steel from Bandmann.

"She is amazing," Bandmann said. "I met her while she was with the Bandwagon program and I was teaching ‘ukulele. Since then, she's picked up the steel guitar, and has worked to where she even knows some of the numbers we practice with the Kilauea Elementary School choir group."

The educational component of the Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival provides learning opportunities for local schools, which will have presentations made by teams of festival steel-guitar masters and geared towards re-introducing the Hawaiian steel guitar to the younger generation to get them interested in the instrument and its importance in Hawaiian music.

"On a more contemporary note, how many of you recognize this?" Bandmann told a group of Kilauea School students trying the steel bar. "Yes, Spongebob and Bikini Bottom also have music from steel guitars."

Guests to the steel-guitar festival can also take in the exhibit featuring vintage and contemporary lap steel guitars, including instruments from the collections of Kaua'i steel guitarist Martin Curnan and Maui steel guitarist Geri Valdriz, who will also be on stage Saturday.

Vaughan, starting in 2002 with a lesson by Jerry Byrd at Harry's Music in Kaimuki, Oahu, will bring his Jerry Bird instrument to life. Since moving to Kaua‘i where he is a veteran of the KFD for more than 13 years, Vaughan has continued his study with Akana and has steeled under Kaua‘i's Ed Punua.

Paki, as Vaughan is affectionately known, plays C13 and B11 tunings with the Waipa Seranaders that include former KFD Chief David Sproat on lead ‘ukulele and vocals, Jen Waipa on vocals, and Nelson Armitage on bass.

During the Saturday ho‘olaule‘a hosted by Lady Ipo Kahaunaele-Ferreira, NexGen artists Joey and Tai Misailidis will be joined by the Kapa‘a Middle School Choir and ‘Ukulele Band, and Pono Fernandez and Ethan Goore will have the support of the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School Chorus and ‘Ukulele Band.

"Mahalo nui to kumu Alan Akaka for reviving steel guitar here on Kaua'i," Vaughan said.

Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or


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