Growing up in Hawai‘i, I played a ten-hole harmonica by ear, but lost interest because I could only play the same old songs and was not getting any better. As the years sped by and before I found anything interesting to enrich my life, I became a senior facing retirement. Doing nothing was not an option so I began to search for the elusive experience that would bring harmony into my life.
One day, I went to a concert and saw a group of seniors playing with a tremolo 21-hole harmonica. Everyone wore attractive red and white uniforms that enhanced the lively group’s sense of harmony. I was amazed by the variety of songs they played — sometimes with two harmonicas simultaneously. At the end of this wonderful performance, I knew this is what I had been searching for.
My retirement dream of doing something worthwhile became a reality when I joined the Small World Harmonica Band, an ethnically diverse group from all walks of life. I was immediately introduced to an exciting world that not only renewed my interest in playing the harmonica but also made me a member of a friendly social group.
The beginner’s group met weekly in free classes; we learned to read numerical notes, breathing techniques, and how to hold and properly clean the harmonica. It also provides health benefits by exercising the lungs and stimulates the mind from reading numerical notes and transposing them into music. After learning the fundamentals, we began to play a variety of music including Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, American and Latin songs.
By diligently practicing, I finally felt comfortable performing at care homes, senior centers and adult living facilities. Entertaining this audience, many in wheelchairs who smile and applaud as we play music of their bygone days, is a heartwarming and memorable experience. But, the real beneficiaries of this entertainment, I truly believe,
are the players themselves, since it lifts their spirits and gives them a good feeling.
The Hawai‘i Harmonica Society will celebrate its 22nd annual recital and concert at the Mission Memorial Auditorium, City Hall Annex, on Saturday, July 13, from 10 am to noon. This program is free and open to the public, and free parking is available at the municipal parking lot at Beretania and Alapai Streets (Beretania Street entrance).
Anyone interested in joining a group and learning to play the harmonica, contact any of the phone numbers listed below — I’m sure you’ll find it enjoyable.