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Nikkei Horizons `Ukulele Band

By Don Maekawa

Nikkei Horizons `Ukulele Band

Front Row L-R: Jack Akamine, Don Maekawa, Daniel Kashima, May Sasaki,
Teru Kiyohara, Dolly Tokunaga
Middle Row: Elsie Taniguchi, Helen Akmine, Joe Sasaki, Yumi Griffin.
Back Row: Joe Kamikawa, Keiki Kamikawa, Starr Hashiguchi, Michael Kurtz, Frank Tsuboi, John Iwai, Stewart Perry, Mas Tamekuni.
Missing from photo: Tak Matsui. Photo by Don Maekawa

Whoever coined the expression “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” never heard of the Nikkei Horizons `Ukulele Band. These seniors, mostly 70 years and older, are graduates of the popular Nikkei Horizons `ukulele classes and have learned to play and enjoy a fun musical instrument. Not only did they learn to play the uke, they also had the audacity to produce an amazing, professional looking CD with a varied collection of their songs and music including performances by special guest artists.

The `ukulele classes are taught by Dr. Jack Akamine and his wife Helen and John Iwai. Jack, a retired dentist raised in Hawaii, has over 50 years of `ukulele and guitar experience and plays a slack key guitar solo on the CD. When asked what inspired him to teach the class and lead the CD project, he said it was the inspiration of Johann Sebastian Bach’s inscription “SDG” on all his music manuscripts. SDG is “Soli Dei Gloria” meaning Glory to God Alone.

The comments below from `Ukulele Band members about the class and the CD project attests to the popularity of the Nikkei Horizons offering.

“This `ukulele class has been a great joy to me and has certainly enriched my life. I’m 83 years old and never in my wildest dream did I ever think I would make a CD”. Teru Kiyohara

“If like me, you’ve wanted to play the `ukulele for over 50 years, it is a soul satisfying experience to join the Nikkei Horizons gang…what fun!”. Stewart Perry

“Jack Akamine’s class has introduced me to the fun and enjoyment of playing the `ukulele. It’s not difficult to learn, and the `ukulele can be played by anyone, even if they have had no music training”. May Sasaki

“I played around with the `ukulele as a youngster growing up in Hawai`i and have rarely played it since, until I took a recent Nikkei Horizons `ukulele class. Now I find myself really enjoying playing the `ukulele at home and with other players that have also taken the class”. Mas Tamekuni

Of the five hundred copies of the CD produced last September, only a few remain. Proceeds from the sale went to benefit Nikkei Horizons. The `Ukulele Band will be performing at the Eastside Nihon Aki Matsuri Festival at Bellevue Community College on Saturday, September 9, 2006 at 1:30PM. See website www.enma.org (performing arts)

Don Maekawa is a retired Seattle area native who now lives in Bellevue . His wife Kiyo is a University of Hawai`i graduate and grew up on the Haleakalā Ranch on Maui . He learned to play the `ukulele through Jack Akamine’s `ukulele class. He enjoys Hawaiian music, foods and culture.

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