And the winner is …

KAPAA — The Kapaa Middle School choir and ukulele band brought home top prizes from the recent Heritage Music Festival.

Almost 50 students traveled to Anaheim, Calif., to take part in the five-day festival, said Mary Lardizabal, choir and ukulele band director for Kapaa Middle School.

“We have a wonderful group of chaperones and students,” she said.

The ukulele band earned first place, receiving a gold plaque, and the choir came in second place, receiving a silver plaque.

The choir sang songs like “Rocking the Rhythm Around,” “Why We Sing,” and “Thankful” by Josh Groban, she said.

While the ukulele band, under the direction of Loke Sasil, performed traditional hula songs, it also performed a version of “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson.

“A lot of people don’t know about ukulele bands, so it’s a chance to share our culture,” Lardizabal said.

The performance of “Man in the Mirror” was accompanied by sign language, she added.

Throughout the competition, which boasted the talents of 25 choirs and instrumental bands from throughout the country, judges met with students in workshops, and helped them hone their skills, Lardizabal said.

“That was the best part of it all,” she said.

The competition wrapped up with an awards ceremony at Disneyland.

“It’s neat taking the kids to a different part of the country and expose them to new places,” Lardizabal said.

This is the 17th year Lardizabal has taken Kapaa Middle School students to compete in the Heritage Music Festival, from which they often bring home awards. “We’re an award-winning group,” she said.

The students will perform next on May 11 at Kapaa Middle School. The concert, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 6:30 p.m. A free spaghetti dinner, hosted by the choir’s Booster Club, will begin at 5:15 p.m.

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