Where most ukulele virtuosos are known for their playing and recording, Roy Sakuma is known for his teaching. A protégé of the renowned ukulele player Ohta-san, Sakuma has dedicated his life to fostering interest in the instrument by teaching others how to play it. His methods allows students who have no experience with music to develop a love for the instrument that will follow them throughout their lives, even if they can’t read a note of music when they start. Along with his wife, he operates several ukulele schools on the Hawaiian Islands.
He was first inspired to play the ukulele upon hearing Ohta-san’s first single, “Sushi” on the radio. The instrument spoke to him and he sought out Ohta-san—also known as Herb Ohta—to begin lessons. He quickly proved himself a capable and dedicated student. Like his protégé, Ohta-san was a dedicated teacher of the instrument, who sometimes allowed his best students to take over instruction when Ohta-san himself was out of town. This would prove to be the impetus that set Sakuma’s career as a teacher in motion. He discovered that his passion was for teaching, rather than playing, and he has continued to give lessons ever since.
Sakuma is also the founder of the Ukulele Festival, a huge event that started in 1971. The festival centers on performance, but there is plenty of opportunity to learn about the instrument, as well; fitting, given that one of the most respected ukulele teachers is its founder. He says that one of the most prominent reasons for doing the hard work of putting together the Ukulele Festival year after year is that the ukulele offers so much to those who hear it. He credits music with giving his life direction and the ukulele with bringing joy to anyone who hears it played.
Some of the biggest names in Hawaiian music, including the legendary Ohta-san and Israel Kamakawiwoole have graced the stage at the Ukulele festival. Israel Kamakawiwoole’s biggest hit, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, was among those that the artist performed at the festival. People come back year after year to see the festival, a rather impressive feat considering that Hawaii is home to such diversions as Waikiki Beach and some of the most beautiful scenery in the nation. He has taught thousands of students to play the instrument that the festival is designed to showcase.
Roy Sakuma continues on with his mentor’s tradition of training fine teachers. All of the instructors at his classes are former students. Roy Sakuma teaches students of all ages, allowing adults to get in on the joy of the ukulele long after most of them have likely given up on learning an instrument, if they haven’t learned one already. His method is renowned for the ease with which students learn, and for the quality of playing that his students are capable of offering. All of his schools are located on the island of Oahu and he has been teaching since 1974.Return to Home Page
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