SANTA CRUZ -- When Laura Beach first heard about ukulele master Ben Kaili hosting a workshop at Hula School of Santa Cruz, she knew she had to check it out.
"I've always wanted to learn how to play the ukulele," said Beach, a biology teacher at Soquel High School. "Part of the fun is pretending to be a musician."
About 30 people sat in a circle at the school on Sunday afternoon to learn the basics of the popular Hawaiian instrument. Kaili led the workshop with Victor Chock, another veteran ukulele strummer.
Leolani Lowry of Hula School of Santa Cruz first conceived of the workshop two months ago when she met Kaili at Pono Hawaiian Grill, across the street from the dance class. When Kaili told Lowry that he was playing a show at Santa Clara University this weekend, they decided to host a class for novices to experts.
Kaili, a multiple Na Hoku Awards nominee and founder of the Hawai'i Music Festival held annually in Hilo, Hawaii, led the workshop with members of his band, Kanapila.
"If it was only me, I wouldn't be able to teach this many people," said Kaili, who's from the Big Island. "I wanted to be able to teach the class and share our work."
And the group brought a level of expertise to the class, Lowry said.
"To have all these guys come here, it's special," said Lowry, who's from the Big Island. "They want to share their music and their knowledge."
Looking to tap into some aloha spirit, the class started with everyone holding hands in a circle and saying a prayer.
"Help those that are interested in learning more," Chock said.
Advanced players split off into a separate room, while around 20 beginners stayed in the main room. They learned the chords to play "Hanalei Moon," a classic Hawaiian song by Bob Nelson.
"OK, 'Hanalei Moon' will be in C," said Kaili as he showed students how to play the song.
Within minutes, the entire group was strumming together and singing the lyrics about the district in Hawaii.
"Every breeze, every wave will whisper," they sang in unison. "You are mine, don't ever go away."
Follow Sentinel reporter Bonnie Horgos on Twitter at Twitter.com/bhorgos