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A Talk Story With Kala's Featured Artist, Anthony Ka'uka Stanley

Last month, I had the opportunity to talk story with Anthony Ka'uka Stanley and learn about his upbringing in one of the world’s top halaus. Anthony is the music director at his family's halau (a performing arts troupe and school), Heali'i's Polynesian Revue. He is also a full-time professional musician. Anthony shares his love of music by playing locally in his hometown of San Diego, California, as well as internationally. He has also collaborated on projects with organizations such as the San Diego Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Kumu Kathy Heali'i O Nalani Gore-Stanley

For the love of family, music, and culture.

Anthony is the youngest son of Kumu Kathy Heali'i O Nalani Gore-Stanley, a well-respected and known hula dancer. His mother established the halau in 1967 and shares her knowledge of Polynesian cultural traditions and teaching the songs and dances of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and New Zealand. For Anthony, there is a sense of responsibility and duty to share his culture through music education. He also makes it his personal goal to expand people's perception and understanding of the 'ukulele. He accomplishes this by infusing various genres of music into his performances and teachings to demonstrate the diversity of the instrument. Anthony is also a featured artist for Kala 'Ukuleles, another platform he utilizes to educate. He also hopes to create his own original compositions to connect people, culture, and music.

Photo credit: Anthony Ka'uka Stanley

What is advice you would give to someone who would like to play 'ukulele?

When asked what advice he would give to someone wanting to learn the 'ukulele, he recommended trying out different instruments to see which one the person connects with. Each 'ukulele has its own voice depending on the wood, size, and maker. A smaller uke has a high frequency; therefore, giving it a sharper voice than larger ukes with a more profound and mellower tone. Strings also provide the instrument a different feel and sound. For example, high tension strings sound brighter than low tension, which are mellow and warm. There is also the choice of using a low G versus a high G string.

Photo credit: Anthony Ka'uka Stanley

Another piece of advice is learning and practicing different chords so when you play, the music has depth. For example, if you are playing along with someone and they are at the top of the neck, you can complement their chords by playing lower down on the fretboard.

Lastly, in the world of instant gratification, some learners are driven toward social media to learn how to play 'ukulele. Anthony appreciates how the instrument has been shared worldwide; however, this learning method does not necessarily give learners the foundation they need. People are sprinting before learning the basics and working their way up in skill. They mimic and play along with a video, then go on to the next song without adequately understanding what they are playing.

When looking for an instructor, Anthony recommends finding a teacher that will guide and give you the tools needed to learn and play. Students who learn by this method are empowered and encouraged rather than replicating the style of their instructor. The students will also find their own style of playing. He also advises taking the time to be present during practice and incorporate techniques, scales, and chords to make you a better player. Remember, you will always be a student. No matter how advance you are in your playing journey, there is always room to learn and grow.

Be sure to connect with Anthony online. You can find him on YouTube, Facebook, and the Heali'i's Polynesian Revue website.


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