The Ukulele Ambassador Of Kaimuki
With its comfortable couches, a coffee table full of food and photographs displayed on the walls, the Ukulele Hale living room is where people can eat, talk story and play music.
Ukulele Hale owner Jody Kamisato and his four instructors teach students of all ages in Kaimuki to strum the strings of the ukulele.
“Ukulele is for everybody,” says Kamisato. “It’s two strings easier than a guitar.”
He offers private and group 30-minute lessons weekly, and students are urged to practice daily.
“The repetition is important so the fingers start to remember,” says Kamisato, a Kaiser High graduate.
Ukulele Hale students also can learn songwriting, improvisation, performance techniques and enjoy tours of an ukulele factory.
And tourists can sign up for a 45-minute lesson to learn a song.
Ukulele Hale also has a room where students get the feel of being on stage and performing in public so when the call comes to play at a family gathering or in a talent show, they’ll be ready.
“I feel it’s important to bring our students out into the community to reach out and give back,” explains Kamisato, noting that students play for patients at Shriner’s Hospital.
Kamisato opened Ukulele Hale in 2007 after working as an instructor for Jake Shimabukuro at Ukulele Academy, and then for Shimabukuro’s brother Bruce.
To combat cuts of music and arts programs in public schools, in 2008 Kamisato started Ukes on the Loose during after-school hours. Ukulele instructors guide students, and members of Big Brothers and Big Sisters in high school help teach students in elementary grades. The Ukes on the Loose competition even includes a category for air ukulele as well as several age group divisions.
With the support of his friends, family, students, staff and the community, Kamisato is on a mission to spur interest in the ukulele worldwide. While on vacation in Soweto, South Africa, he said he had one of his most intense feelings when playing ukulele for a group of children who lived in extreme poverty.
“I looked into this one girl’s eyes,” he recalls, “and she looked up to me and she had the biggest smile. At that moment, I realized why I’m here. My purpose is to use the ukulele to communicate with people on a different level.”
Soon after that he sent some ukuleles to the children in Soweto for their theater program. He also is starting an ukulele program in Thailand.
“How can we use viral marketing, the Internet, YouTube and portals of technology to educate people, and to gain their interest in the ukulele?” Kamisato asks. “I see the ukulele as one of the instruments that can touch people no matter where they live in the world, what culture or what language they speak. It is such a humble little instrument that can do so many great things.
“When you strum the ukulele, it strikes a chord in people.”
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