KAPAA — Mary Lardizabal could not contain herself.
“Whee!” the ukulele band and choir director at Kapaa Middle School said, passing out a Kamoa ukulele to a student. “This is like Christmas!”
Sam and Lulu Bonanno, co-founders of Kamoa ukulele, delivered 30 of a committed 100 ukulele to Kapaa Middle School where they were met by Rep. James Tokioka, author of House Bill 1275, which made the ukulele the state instrument.
The bill was started two years ago and was met with controversy.
“It’s because it’s not from here,” one of the seventh- grade ukulele students said. “I don’t know where it came from, but it’s not from here.”
The issue was put on the ballot for WeVoteHawaii, where keiki have the opportunity to vote for not only candidates, but on various issues such as the official auana and kahiko instruments.
“The passing of this bill simply did what you, the keiki, told us,” Tokioka said. “There were 130,000 keiki who voted in WeVoteHawaii, and we are adopting their suggestions.
Tokioka said the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School and Kapaa Middle School were strong lobbyists for the bill. Gov. David Ige signed HB 1275 into law on April 9.
Following its passage, Tokioka received a phone call from Sam Bonanno asking about giving ukulele to schools.
“A lot of school budgets for music have been cut, or even canceled,” Bonanno said. “We have the opportunity to help, and instead of just giving, we wanted to give directly to the schools. This is the first 30 ukulele of the 100 instruments we committed to contribute.”
Ukulele will also be delivered to Kapaa Elementary School and the Kapaa High School.
As the last notes of the explanations were uttered, the students, already armed with the new four-stringed instruments, broke into song.
“I can feel the tunes,” Lulu said, her body swaying to the lilting strains of Hawaiian music. “This is the seed of music.”
Tokioka told the students how lucky they were.
“A lot of young people spend their time behind cell phones, texting,” Tokioka said. “With this gift from Sam and Lulu, you have an opportunity to learn and enjoy something which will live on forever.”
Lardizabal, whose ukulele bands and choral groups have been strong contenders at the Heritage Music Festival in Anaheim, California for the past 16 years, said these ukulele will be going with them on their next trip.
“We’re taking them to Disneyland,” she said.