Archive for the ‘craft’ Category

Yoga training: Contemplating challenge

April 20th, 2016

One month, we studied what the yoga sutras have to say about challenge. Essentially, they're there to help you clarify your own desire.

"Many obstructions are purposely put in the way for us to pass through... We seem to need to be challenged and tested in order to understand our own capacities," writes Sri Swami Satchidananda.

The example that came to mind right away when we discussed this in class was of my career in news. I pursued it right out of college and lived it with burning enthusiasm for over a decade.

When KHNL had mass layoffs in 2009, I decided to try another career, and enjoyed pushing the boundaries wildly, contemplating cake decorator, lawyer, social worker, behavioral therapist. It's not that I disliked news anymore, but it's that I felt this might be a chance to try something different.

I made this purse-shaped cake.

I made this purse-shaped cake.

In the end, a fancy PR job meandered across my path, and I did that for several years, learning and enjoying what that had to offer, until family crisis called me away. (Mom, Alzheimer's.)

Me at my PR job.

Me at my PR job.

Mom and me.

Mom and me.

Soon after my mom's situation stabilized, the job at KHON2 came to fruition serendipitously. I hadn't thought about my next steps very hard, but returning to news became an attractive idea. I knew I had missed lots about it during the now-five years I was away.

Me at KHON.

Me at KHON.

I like the culture, the energy, the excitement, the type of people it attracts, the craft itself. I was grateful to return to a career I have always had passion for. Most people don't get to work their passion.

Considering this situation within the framework of the sutra, I see my love for my craft didn't diminish during the years spent away, and sharpened my realization that it's what I still like to do.

Which is nice to see in retrospect, because sometimes you go through challenges and wonder why such sucky things happen to you. So maybe there really are no coincidences in life?

15-3-17 4 shot Jai

Is there a time in your life when challenge helped you sharpen your focus? How did you handle it?
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Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Centennial Events for April

March 31st, 2016

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016, and continues its tradition of sharing Hawaiian culture and After Dark in the Park (ADIP) programs with the public in April. All ADIP and Hawaiian cultural programs are free, but park entrance fees apply. Programs are co-sponsored by the Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. They are:

Ranger Noah Gomes and ‘ukulele. Courtesy: NPS

Ranger Noah Gomes and ‘ukulele. Courtesy: NPS


‘Ukulele Basics. Park rangers show the basics of how to play the ‘ukulele as part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing ‘Ike Hana No‘eau “Experience the Skillful Work” workshops. Free.
When: Wed., April 6 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai


‘Alalā at Keauhou Bird Conservation Center. Courtesy: San Diego Zoo/R.Kohley

‘Alalā at Keauhou Bird Conservation Center. Courtesy: San Diego Zoo/R.Kohley

The Return of the ‘Alalā. ʻAlalā, the native Hawaiian crow, once lived across Hawaiʻi Island. Now, due to a variety of threats in the wild, these birds are found only in captivity. Successful captive breeding and conservation efforts have helped to rescue this native Hawaiian species from the brink of extinction. This fall, ʻalalā will be returned home to the wild, and these very intelligent birds will take their place once again in our Hawaiian forests. Come learn more about the release and recovery of the ʻalalā, a beloved and unique bird found nowhere else on earth. Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing After Dark in the Park series. Free.
When: Tues., April 12 at 7 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium

Free Entry During National Park Week. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service this year, all fee-charging national parks in the U.S. will offer nine fee-free days to commemorate the centennial during National Park Week– including Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Come and Find Your Park at no charge! Hawai‘i Volcanoes is open 24 hours a day.
When: April 16-24, 2016
Where: All fee-charging national parks

Kahuku ‘Ohana Day. Calling keiki 17 and younger to join park rangers for a fun day of discovery in the park’s Kahuku Unit on Sat., April 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants will hike the historic lower Palm Trail, and learn to make traditional string figures called hei. Call (808) 985-6019 to register and sign up for a free lunch by March 31. Bring water, a re-usable water bottle, sunscreen, hat, long pants and shoes. Sponsored by the park and Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center. Enter the Kahuku Unit of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on the mauka (inland) side of Highway 11 near mile marker 70.5, and meet near the parking area. Free.

Hula Performance by Haunani’s Aloha Expressions. This popular, award-winning hula hālau is comprised of an all-Hawaiian volunteer group of kāne and wāhine kūpuna (elders) 70 to over 90 years old, singing and dancing hapa-haole mele and hula. They share the aloha spirit with malihini (visitors) on visiting cruise ships, and at the Hilo International Airport. The kūpuna also entertain patients at many of Hilo’s senior kōkua (caring) organizations, and have performed at the park’s annual cultural festival on several occasions. Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing Nā Leo Manu “Heavenly Voices” presentations. Free.
When: Wed., April 20 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium

Centennial Series After Dark in the Park: What Makes a Species Invasive? Invasive species are introduced organisms that negatively impact our economy, environment and/or our health. They are a leading threat to the world’s biodiversity, contributing to extinctions and the alteration of entire ecosystems, and cost billions of dollars annually. Hawai‘i has been notoriously and negatively impacted by invasives, but no environment is unaffected. Join Park Ecologist David Benitez to learn what makes a species invasive, hear about some of the most unwanted invasive species in the park, Hawai‘i and around the world, and learn what you can do to stop their spread.
When: Tues., April 26, 2016 at 7 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium


Will on ohe hano ihu. Courtesy: NPS

Will on ohe hano ihu. Courtesy: NPS


Hawaiian Arts & Crafts. Staff from the park’s nonprofit partner, the Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association, will make, and demonstrate how to play, the ‘ohe hano ihu (Hawaiian nose flute). In addition, visitors can learn to create beautiful designs on a bamboo stamp, or ‘ohe kāpala. Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing ‘Ike Hana No‘eau “Experience the Skillful Work” workshops. Free.
When: Wed., April 27 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai

Centennial Hike: Save the Summit Understory. Join Park Volunteers Paul & Jane Field and lop invasive Himalayan ginger from the native Hawaiian rainforest at the summit of Kīlauea. Bring a hat, raingear, day pack, snacks and water. Gloves and tools are provided.
When: Sat., April 30, 2016 at 9 a.m.
Where: Meet near the flagpole outside Kīlauea Visitor Center

2016 is the centennial anniversary for Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, and the year-long Centennial After Dark in the Park & Hike Series. To find out what’s happening throughout 2016, visit the park website. It’s also the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. To find centennial events at other national parks, visit

Beading project

November 27th, 2015

I've been waiting eight years to do this with my daughter! We beaded together this weekend!

I learned how to bead probably ten years ago from a couple of my girlfriends who were totally into it at the time. Hobbies, energies, and schedules change, and over the years, I've become the recipient of three people's beading hand-me-downs. I accumulated three kits of beads.

In the last five years, I myself slowed down considerably. I just have no time or energy. I considered passing along my beads to the next lucky girlfriend in the chain of crafters, but I decided one day, Olivia would be patient enough to enjoy it.

And the day finally came!


I'm not sure how this came up, but one weekend she wanted earrings and we made some glass rabbits for her.  She wore it to school and got a lot of compliments. It made her happy.

With Christmas coming up, I asked her if she'd like to make earrings for her girlfriends. She said yes!

So I eagerly brought out the kit one weekend and we had a delightful time combing through the little boxes and deciding how to pattern each pair of earrings.

It's not complicated and I'm really quite amateur in my skill set, but it's enough to appease an eight-year-old. It's amazing, really, how making six pairs of earrings easily took us a couple of hours, mostly because we were playing with all the pretty colors and shapes.

At the end of the session, we went into Mommy's gift wrapping storage and picked out fancy mesh bags to package it in. There are many colors. This also took a while, ha ha.

Although the whole process was about making and wrapping presents for other people, the true gift was all mine, because it was another lovely experience in time spent with my girl... That, and we got to do this leisurely, instead of at the last minute with me stressing out about meeting a deadline!

Kanile`a: A Joyful Sound

October 16th, 2015

My ukulele teacher Trey Terada suggested I tour a ukulele factory in order to gain a deeper appreciation for how the instrument is made. Since I consider him a ukulele god and I do whatever he tells me to regarding music, I agreed.

Me, Trey, Joe

Me, Trey, Joe

My jujitsu sensei tells us to read books about the arts. This was certainly better than being told to read a book (ha ha.)

We went to Kanile`a Ukulele in Kaneohe, which offers free public tours every weekday at 10:30 a.m. Owner and general manager Joe Souza gave us look at his operations.

Fascinating! Terada, once again, was right. I completely look at the ukulele with new eyes.

It starts outside at the milling area, where a few men are working computerized machines that cut the wood down to the 1/1000th of a millimeter. I learned mahogany is the wood of choice for best sound resonance, though they use different woods for different purposes.

In a win-win move, he partnered with guitar manufacturers to buy any wood they can’t use, which might still be perfectly good for the smaller specs of the ukulele. It saves the wood from going into the garbage, and Kanile`a has steady access to a small supply of premium wood without committing to a cost-prohibitive shipping container.

Souza launched into a speech about also sourcing wood locally, for which he has bought a small forest on Hawaii Island. He and his family travel over regularly to plant and care for koa and other woods they harvest to make their instruments.

This forced him to learn about the world of arboriculture, and he speaks about how koa foliage is one of the best plants to provide nitrogen for the understory. Who knew the craft of lutherie would take someone down the path of ecology?

IMG_8303 IMG_8304

We moved into the various assembly rooms to watch the instrument come together. I like bling, so I nosed through the small drawers of mother of pearl dots meant as fret board markers. The best ones, apparently, come from New Zealand, because they’re shiniest and most colorful.

I now know way more about the little instrument than I ever imagined possible! Latest technology tuning keys. A dozen different types of headstock. Different cuts to the body. My novice’s head spun with an encyclopedia of ukulele facts that so easily poured out of Souza’s mouth.


Souza also shared one major secret to his products’ high resonance. “It’s the UV-cured finish. We’re the only ukulele maker we know of that does this in Hawaii.”

He launched into a history lesson about how guitar makers were prompted by environmental concerns to find an alternative to the traditional acrylate finish which lets off harmful VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions. In 1993, Taylor Guitars found the solution in UV curing.

Kanile`a borrowed the technology, and finds the end product durable yet soft, and faster to assemble. Its thinness allows the sound to resonate loudly through the wood.


“A purist believes no finish is best, because you want to hear the vibrations through the wood, but that’s not practical over the life of the instrument. This is so thin, it’s the next best thing,” explains Souza.

It’s amazing how much knowledge one accumulates over decades of working with and around one’s passion. Maybe I know this much about my industry (maybe?), but the difference is underscored for me by my dearth of musical information.


For Souza, it comes naturally. “I’ve loved the ukulele my whole life – first as a player, then as a luthier. My parents, my seven siblings, my aunts and uncles all play the ukulele. We all bring our ukes to family parties,” he recalls.

He started formally taking lessons when he was in the fourth grade, and expanded his passion from playing ukuleles to making them when he was 20. “I apprenticed with master luthier Pete Burmudez for five years. He really taught me to think outside the box. The first ukuele I crafted with him had a concert body with a tenor scale, simply because that’s what I thought would be my ideal uke. I’m still making that today,” he says.

Burmudez taught Souza to embrace innovation, which he says is a thread that runs through his operations even today. He’s proud of creating a fingerboard with a slight radius that gives players’ fingers better access (which Terada loves.) He also brings up his TRU bracing invention that redesigned the soundboard to achieve the best tonal resonance.

He hands me a model with a soft curve on the top right. “This is the Kanile`a bevel. It serves the purpose of the traditional cutaway, which lets the player’s fingers get to the 14th fret and beyond, but it preserves more of the body.” Souza also created an armrest on the bottom left corner, softening the edge to accommodate the player’s arm.

“We’re aiming to be the Stradivarius of ukuleles. We want to create perfection,” he says of his still-young company, founded only in 1998. To hear the energy and determination in his voice, it’s clear he has the drive to do his best to make that happen.


It appears all the Kanile`a brand ukuleles are handmade right here in Kaneohe, I notice as we tour the shop. Everything is here.

“That’s right, and we like it that way,” Souza confirms. “There’s something special about making it in Hawaii. We believe mana – spirit – goes into each piece. We tell our staff to step outside and take a break if they’re in a mood when they get to work. Put your best energy into your work.”

He cradles an ukulele. “You can feel it, right? It just feels like, Wow, right? It’s inexplicable but it’s not elusive. The energy is there. We want to put the best mana into our instruments.”

To that end, Souza says he gives his employees two Daydream Breaks a day. “We are artisans. Go outside and look at nature. Give your brain a rest.”

Though his life and his livelihood are all about ukulele, he never tires of it. The same draw that compelled him to play as a child still reels him in today- and every day.

“Music is therapeutic for the soul,” he states. “I can have the most hectic day, but the minute I start playing, it makes a bad day good. It changes my whole spirit.”

Tours of Kanile`a Ukulele
Monday through Friday
10:30 a.m. (60 – 90 minutes)
46-216 Kahuhipa Street in Kaneohe
Make an appointment for group tours at (808) 234-2868 or
Click here for more:

Want to give it a try? Check out Ukulele Club of Hawaii that Souza founded.
First Tuesday of the month
6 – 7 p.m.
Windward Mall Center Stage
Free to join, free sheet music.
Strongly recommended you bring your own ukulele, but there may be a loaner available.

Posted in craft | 3 Comments »

Dr. Trey and the joy of ukulele

October 14th, 2015

Tracey Terada, aka Dr. Trey, picked up an ukulele at the age of five, and hasn't stopped playing. He sounds amazing: The music flows from his fingers; the ukulele, an extension of him.

He is a musician: a composer, an arranger, a producer, a performer, and above all, he says, a teacher. This year, he became my daughter's and my ukulele teacher.

Courtesy: Trey Terada

Trey Terada. Courtesy: Leslie Kuba

It's amazing being in the presence of someone so skilled at their craft. While I struggle to move my fingers from chord to chord, he talks to me while he plays, fingers moving instinctually.

His playing is vibrant, fluid, emotional, and as second-nature as breathing. Obviously, what you'd expect from a music professional.

Mine is tenuous, irregular, milquetoast, and as awkward as walking on fire. Obviously, what you'd expect from a newbie who is not a prodigy.

Trey Terada. Courtesy: Leslie Kuba

Trey Terada. Courtesy: Leslie Kuba

What I appreciate is his ability to be a teacher. Not everyone is cut out for it.

He's excellent at explaining the chords, patient with children, good at pacing out lessons to provide the right amount of challenge, and encouraging with feedback.

Here's why he does it: "I love that the ukulele can transport you somewhere that you could otherwise never get. I love the way the wood resonates against your chest and the sound vibrates. I feel no inhibitions when I play, as if I can do what I want. Nothing is forbidden. I want to help other people find that!"

Trey & me

Trey & me

Terada cites an oft-quoted study of the neuroscience of jazz musicians' brains. A John's Hopkins University team measured the players' brain waves during improvisation and found it increased creativity while turning off self-censoring parts of the brain.

Trey Terada. Courtesy: Leslie Kuba

Trey Terada. Courtesy: Leslie Kuba

"It's a small, two-octave instrument, but I feel there are no limits, no rules when I play it. I'm free to do what I want. It's the greatest feeling in the world," he says.

His best known student is virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, just 17 years old when he asked Terada to teach him. Shimabukuro is today known around the world for his ukulele music, with appearances on most major US TV outlets as well as the esteemed National Public Radio.  Shimabukuro is an international star, but way back when, he started his career as Terada's pupil.

Terada describes Shimabukuro as a one-in-a-million talent. "He's the best player in the world. Nobody can touch him. It's the way he touches the strings, not just the speed of his fingers. He has a certain caress."

What Terada likes most about him, though, is his character. "He's very responsible in carrying the burden of being the torchbearer. He shows the world what the ukulele can do, and he always reminds people it's Hawaiian. He brings it back home. He's brilliant."

Terada tells a story that illustrates Shimabukuro's gift: "The first day we met, I asked him to play Yesterday by the Beatles, but not focusing on the lead string. That's hard to do. I didn't think he could do it. He called the next day and played it perfectly for me over the phone. I was blown away."

Shimabukuro returns the compliment. "Trey is an amazing teacher. I learned so much from him over the years and still love chatting about the ukulele with him from time to time. He is a dear friend and I owe most of my accomplishments to Trey. He taught me how to feel the music and to not be afraid to try new things. Trey is an amazing ukulele player, and I miss the many jam sessions we would have back in the day."

Terada's musical career has taken many twists and turns in his life, probably not unlike the careers of many artists. His parents signed him up for lessons at the Richards St. YWCA when he was five, and he stayed for about two years.

He continued playing on his own, listening to music on the radio and copying what he heard. He tuned in to the Ukulele Festival on KCCN-FM religiously every year to expose himself to new styles of playing.

In seventh grade at Kawananakoa Intermediate, he played trumpet in the band. "That was big for me. I learned to appreciate different types of music and how chords worked. I realized I could translate the chords to the ukulele," he recalls.

At McKinley High School, he played the euphonium in the band and started arranging music. "I arranged Mozart for the brass quintet," he says.

Terada also learned to play the piano, bass, guitar, and the Baroque recorder. He ended both his intermediate and high school band stints with Outstanding Bandsman awards.

When he attended Arizona State University on a partial music scholarship, he intended to become a band director, though switched majors to music history after a year because he realized he was fascinated with Baroque and Renaissance styles.

After two years, he missed Hawaii and returned home. He wanted to become more deeply involved in the music industry, and took a couple jobs at music stores. That's where he met Peter Moon, legendary ukulele and slack-key guitar player.

Terada started taking lessons from Moon in the early 1990s. "It was like the Karate Kid. I would show up at his house, vacuum, bring him dinner, and after all the work was done, we'd sit and play," he laughs.

Sadly, Moon suffered a stroke and is unable to contribute to this interview, but his guitarist Dwight Kanae remembers the period well. "Trey was around frequently and sometimes Peter would hang out with Trey more than with me!"

Terada describes it as "old school." "Peter expected me to hear it and repeat it. He wouldn't explain the chords."

Kanae agrees. "Trey hit the nail on the head. That's exactly Peter's teaching style."

One day, Moon commanded Terada to play him a song. Terada played Ahi Wela.

"Then he said, 'Now play it in ten different styles.' I was like, 'What?!'" Terada recounts.

"Peter said, 'What music do you listen to? Latin, classical, what?' So I went home and only came up with three styles: jazz, bossa nova, and Hawaiian. I played it for him at my next visit, and he approved. Only then, he started teaching me!" elaborates Terada.

One day, though, the teacher became the student. "Trey taught Peter a few songs. He played The Devil Went Down To Georgia by Charlie Daniels and Peter thought that was so cool. We almost used it on one of our recordings."

Today, Kanae says he absolutely hears Moon's influence on Terada's playing style - and he likes it. "On a scale of one to ten? Trey's an 11. I love the way that little bulldog plays!"

Of their year together as teacher and student, Terada says, "It feels so good to have learned from Peter. He oozes music. I see nobody playing like him. Through Peter, I learned the ukulele has so much more potential than I realized."

Terada's next formative experience came from a year of training with classical guitarist Lisa Smith, herself a former student of the iconic flamenco guitarist Pepe Romero. "I realized I could make the ukulele sound like a classical guitar," he says.

In his early 30s, Terada finally felt ready to act on a decade-old goal of opening a music school. He hung his shingle as Four Strings Ukulele Studio and used his stage name, Dr. Trey (a joking play on rapper Dr. Dre's name; the joke stuck.)

One of Terada's learning techniques included recording his students in the studio to give them the full experience of hearing themselves. He invited Shimabukuro to record with the students to enhance the illusion of being professional.

"Jake wanted his band at the time, Pure Heart, to come in with him. When I heard them, I was blown away. They filled a niche in the Hawaiian music genre that had been empty since the Ka`au Crater Boys broke up. I thought they were so amazing, I decided I would represent them. That's when Four Strings became a record label," recaps Terada.

This collaboration earned Pure Heart a Na Hoku Hanohano Award in 1999 for Best Album of the Year; Terada was listed as Pure Heart's producer. He's also recorded two albums and toured with singer/ songwriter Mailani.

"I'll never forget that experience. Girls ran up to me after the shows and just wanted to touch my hand! I'd seen that when I toured with Jake, but I never thought that'd be me! What a trip!" he laughs.

For colleagues watching his career, Terada's turn as a producer and teacher was expected. "Trey went exactly where we thought he would go: to become instrumental in other people's lives," Kanae had predicted.

It was a surprise for me to learn Terada doesn't actually like to perform. "It makes me nervous!" he admits. "I will still do it on occasion with singer/ songwriter Johnny Helm, but my focus now is on teaching."

Helm says he's flattered by the revelation. "Trey adds a level of energy that's infectious when he plays. He turns heads with all his positive energy. But what I think makes him so special is how he's taken his skills and taught others to play. I'm inspired by that."

Trey Terada and Kanile`a GM Joe Souza

Trey Terada and Kanile`a GM Joe Souza

Terada hopes to write an instructional book on how to play ukulele, and he continues a years-long partnership with Kanile`a Ukulele in Kaneohe to represent its brand.

"I wanted to sponsor Trey because he's undeniably a master. He's dynamic when he plays, and his students become dynamic," says general manager and owner Joe Souza. "I've known him for a long time, and he's honest, professional, and sincere. I like that his philosophy and ours line up: to spread aloha through music. Trey is the epitome of that."

Teaching, though, remains Terada's passion. He says, "While I love spreading the joy of ukulele to anybody, I really love teaching children. When I see that 'aha' moment when kids get it, I think, Wow, that's something special. That could change the world."

Dr. Trey can be reached at or at (808) 721-7248. Facebook: doctortreymusic. Twitter @doctrey.

Watch some snippets of Terada at:

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