Anaheim Crowds Touched By Aloha

The following story was submitted by Jorene Barut, communications specialist in the DOE Windward District office, Castle-Kahuku Complexes.

Sixteen Kahaluu Elementary students returned to Oahu June 1, following their one-week Kahaluu Ukulele Band Goodwill Tour to California. While there, they entertained Magic Kingdom crowds, taught 1,000 students about Hawaii’s culture at a nearby school — and comforted them in the wake of a violent incident.

First, the grade 4-6 ukulele players joined King Intermediate School’s Symphonic Band for two days of concerts at Disneyland’s Performing Arts program, where they were billed as the Kahaluu Keiki Ukulele Ensemble.

Orchestra students from King Intermediate and ukulele players from Kahaluu Elementary combined their showmanship to wow the crowd on a hot May day in Disneyland late last month. Students began prepar- ing months ahead for the Southern California musical tour with leaders Larry Trela (King orchestra) and Eldean Kukahiko (ukulele band). Photo from the DOE.

At nearby Paul Revere Elementary School in Anaheim, the Kahaluu students led four intensive seminars for Revere’s fourth-graders. They taught them Hawaiian games including moa pahee (wooden darts) and ulu maika (stone bowling), how to play a song on the ukulele and a simple hula. They also let them eat dried squid and poi, and explained the makahiki festival.

The rest of Revere’s 1,000 students wanted to join the fun cultural exchange too, reported Kahaluu Elementary principal Naomi Matsuzaki. “Students carried their chairs down to the courtyard,” she said, and once settled, they watched the California and Hawaii students hula to Sam Kaahanui’s Children of Hawaii and strummed ukuleles to its lyrics: “Here we are the children of Hawaii/Here we are the leaders of tomorrow/Come along and join us in our song …”

Revere principal Lety Chacon said that Hawaii’s students were a gift to them as their community was grieving after a neighbor- hood shooting. The songs’ uplifting messages helps the school find the strength to move forward, she told them. Revere’s student body is 85 percent disadvantaged Latinos.

The tour’s benefit actually worked both ways. “You made it possible to face my fears of being afraid of things. I had fun,” wrote Kahaluu fifth-grader Fabian Silva-Pokipala of his experience.

“It was fun … to share the love through ukulele,” fourth-grader Keana Kalahiki-Peterson wrote in her journal.

The ukulele players audi- tioned in 2012 for the tour, which cost $1,350 per per- son. Families paid for at least half of their children’s expenses; teachers paid their own way. Besides students, 18 others went, including Matsuzaki, Waiahole Elementary principal

Wendy Matsuzaki, King band teacher Larry Trela, Hawaiian studies instructors Darling and Eldean Kukahiko, and Kahaluu teachers Lisa Nagatoshi, Tina Pattison and Carl Okamoto.

Several fundraisers were held to finance the trip, and tour supporters included Olomana’s Jerry Santos, ukulele legend Kimo Hussey, and former DOE superintendent and state Sen. Charles Toguchi.