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Aging Well: Roy Sakuma shares love for music

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Aging Well: Roy Sakuma shares love for music

Oahu resident Roy Sakuma is - for many - synonymous with the ukulele. He's made his living sharing his love for the little instrument, for half a century. 

For 50 years, Roy Sakuma has helped thousands of people make music. He's a music teacher for his own company, Roy Sakuma Productions, Inc. "I'm very thankful that at my age, I can still teach ukulele," he says.

The 73-year-old has the pictures to prove it. Just a few of the photos on his wall show him with former students Kelly Boy DeLima and world renowned player Jake Shimabukuro, who says, "He has so much passion for what he does. He truly believes in what he does. He has a heart for service."

"Teaching is what brings out energy and love. I look forward to teaching every day," agrees Sakuma.

The man who loves to connect with people now, didn't always. In his youth, he wanted to avoid them. "My mother was mentally ill, diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. My brother broke down with the same thing. That created a lot of fear in me that I'd be next. I had a congenital birth defect where my right ear is smaller than my left," he describes, admitting that being teased, fearful, and neglected led to him dropping out of school. 

He was unhappy and alone, and found comfort in the ukulele. "Being kicked out of school, I'd practice six to eight hours a day. That helped me stay out of trouble," he recalls.

Wife Kathy Sakuma, who is the vice president of Roy Sakuma Productions, Inc., affirms, "Ukulele and music being part of his life has definitely made a difference in his life."

He works hard to share that joy. In 1971, Sakuma founded the Ukulele Festival Hawaii. "I had a dream that the ukulele should go beyond the Pacific and should become known throughout the world," he details.

Due to the pandemic, this year's festival, sponsored by Hawaiian Host, will be live streamed on YouTube on July 18 from 9 to 4 Hawaii time. Sakuma says he's excited to again share the sound of aloha with the world. 

Ukulele Festival Hawaii will host monthly mini virtual events leading up to the festival in July. All events will be hosted at Ala Moana Hotel and broadcasted live on YouTube.

Hawaiian Host Presents Ukulele Festival Hawaii: International Day

Featuring groups from around the world, keiki groups and other artists

Sunday, June 13, 2021 | 9:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. HST

Hawaiian Host Presents 51st Annual Ukulele Festival Hawaii

Featuring Jake Shimabukuro, Herb Ohta Jr., Bryan Tolentino, Brittni Paiva and more

including the Roy Sakuma Ukulele Band with keiki students

Sunday, July 18, 2021 | 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. HST

Ukulele Festival Hawaii will be back in Kapi'olani Park in 2022. Online packets featuring song sheets from the virtual mini events and festival will be available for purchase with a suggested donation to support Ukulele Festival Hawaii to keep the festivals free to the public and to support its scholarship program.

For more information about the festival and its partnership with Hawaiian Host, visit www.ukulelefestivalhawaii.org.

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