Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Festival

Festival Information

The Hawaii Steel Guitar Festival is presented by the Hawaii Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences (HIMELE) and the Ke Kula Mele Hawai'i School of Hawaiian Music. The festival brings together legendary steel guitarists for a celebration of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar. This free, 3-day festival includes a series of performances, presentations, instructional workshops, jam sessions and public and private school visitations that are focused on the Hawaiian Steel Guitar and its importance in the Hawaiian music genre.

The festival's goal is to revitalize the Hawaiian steel guitar among local residents, particularly young people. In addition to festival musical programs, teams of performers and music educators will visit area schools with a presentation and demonstration of the Hawaiian steel guitar. These teams will discuss with students the history of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar, demonstrate playing techniques and the importance of the Hawaiian Steel Guitar in the Hawaiian music genre and perform Hawaiian music to encourage interest and festival participation.

The Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Festival is one of a series of annual Hawaiian Steel Guitar festivals produced and presented by the Hawaii Institute for Music Enrichment and Learning Experiences (HIMELE) and the Ke Kula Mele Hawai‘i School of Hawaiian Music throughout the state of Hawai‘i and in collaboration with its partners. The Hawai‘i Island festival is presented by the Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection. The Kaua‘i Steel Guitar Festival is held each Year in collaboration with the Courtyard by Marriott at Coconut Beach in Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i. The Maui Steel Guitar Festival is held on Maui. The Waikīkī Steel Guitar Week and Festival is presented by the Royal Hawaiian Center and held in July at the Royal Grove State at Helumoa. HIMELE also produces the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Festivals series on O‘ahu at various shopping destinations including Ka Makana Ali‘i, Windward Mall, and Kahala Mall.

All festivals are free and open to the public and are presented to increase awareness and foster interest in the Hawaiian Steel Guitar, an instrument important to Hawaiian music and culture. Please see the HIMELE Events page for actual festival locations and dates.

These festivals are made possible through grants and contributions from corporate sponsors and private individuals, supplemented by in-kind contributions and volunteer resources. Partial funding for some festivals is made possible by Hawaii Tourism.

The 2020 Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Festival

The date for the 2020 Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Festival is undergoing discussion by festival planners. Since the original date of the festival was in November, festival planners are considering returning the festival to its original month. The festival date will be announced when it is finalized.

The format of the festival will be similar to the format of the Special Edition festival held in February, 2020. A main concert program will be held on Friday evening, followed by a kanikapila hosted by festival musicians that is open to everyone. Workshops and Open Stage performances will be presented on Saturday. The Saturday evening program will incorporate the resort's monthly Twilight at Kalahuipua‘a series, conducted by the resort's Kahu Hanai, Danny Akaka, Jr. at the hotel's Eva Parker Woods Cottage. This monthly "talk story" program, held under a full moon, will incorporate the Hawaiian steel guitar as a part of the program's entertainment. Sunday brunch entertainment will be offered at the hotel's HāLani Restaurant.

The festival will also include a steel guitar exhibit and a hands-on demonstration where festival guests can learn more about the Hawaiian steel guitar and try out the instrument under the guidance of steel guitar experts.

Education is a key component of the steel guitar festivals. School visitations by master steel guitarists and Next Generation steel guitar players will be scheduled with local area schools. These visitations will include an introduction to the Hawaiian steel guitar and its importance in Hawaiian music and culture. A musical demonstration will be given by the visitation team, followed by hands-on opportunities for classroom students. Local area schools will be contacted about scheduling a visitation time on Friday, and information about any workshop offered at the festival will be posted when it becomes available.

If you or your Hawaii area public or private school would like a visitation and presentation on Thursday or Friday, December 10-11, 2020, please check back for availability.

Public "kanikapila" jam sessions will be held on Thursday and Friday nights. Jam sessions are open to anyone and may include steel guitar masters and other musicians. Anyone is invited to participate and play along with the featured players and festival guest musicians. Musicians are advised to bring their own instruments, amplifiers and music stands if required. Please check the event schedule for the location of the kanikapila.

Open Stage sessions will be presented on Saturday. These sessions will feature steel guitar players from the United States and worldwide in half-hour playing sessions. Due to the nature of the festival, your performance should be on the Hawaiian steel guitar and include Hawaiian music. The Hawaiian steel guitar should be your main instrument but incidental use of other Hawaiian instruments is permissible. If you are a Hawaiian Steel Guitar player or a band with a Hawaiian Steel Guitar and would like to reserve an open stage session, please check back for availability.

Festival T-shirts and artists' CDs will be available for purchase at the festival information and sales tables inside the ballroom during most musical events.

Surveys will be administered at various times during the festival to gauge festival guest experiences and assist with future festival planning. Some statistical information will be provided to Hawaii Tourism.

Festival Information From Previous Festivals

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