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Ukulele inspires Keanu Dellona through his challenges and to help others

Keanu Dellona plays his ukulele.

Keanu “Key” Dellona, a sophomore from California studying psychology and music, is often seen around campus with an ukulele or heard playing it. Dellona, a TVA baby whose parents met at BYU–Hawaii, said the ukulele is more than just an instrument. “When I play ukulele it doesn’t only help others, but it has helped me. Music has been a way for me to convey how I feel and get my feelings out. It’s very therapeutic for me.”

Dellona shared, “I play because music heals. It also brings people together. That’s one of my favorite things about the ukulele is being able to connect with other people.”

Why he began playing ukulele, Dellona said, “The reason why I started was because I like music and I like to sing. Filipinos love to sing. Nothing stuck with me like the ukulele did. And it might have been for a girl too.”

Dellona shared what made him passionate about the ukulele. “Initially I went to a Scout camp with my ukulele and I couldn’t play well. I knew one song. But while we were waiting around one time, I started jamming some chords. Then another person started jamming, one person started freestyling, another beatboxing… and it was just a really cool experience because it brought people together.”

Playing the ukulele to help others

Dellona described how sharing music with the ukulele helped a friend that then inspired him to continue and help others by playing.

“There was one time where I saw one of my classmates looking kind of upset. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I wanted to help out. One of the only things I knew what to do was to sing and play on my ukulele. So I sang her a song, ‘Count on Me,’ by Bruno Mars, and I saw her become happier. As we left, she thanked me and told me how much that helped her. It shook me that I was able to help her and see the power of music.”

This experience, Dellona says, helped him realize how powerful music could be. He said, “In high school, I went through hard times, including depression. I felt a lot of things and had negative thoughts. Music was one of the only things that kept me going through that time.”

“It’s more than music”, Dellona said. “There’s a quote I heard… music conveys what language cannot. No matter where you are from or what language you speak, music speaks to you. And people get it. It’s a way we are all able to relate together. It pierces our hearts.”

Playing around campus

There is almost never a time Dellona is seen on campus without his instrument. Dellona said, “I play the ukulele so much around campus for several reasons. One, it’s a way for my friends to recognize where I am. Two, when I play, it’s able to bring a smile on someone’s face.”

Heard often playing around campus and for other people, Dellona says “I know about 50 songs. I’ve never had a lesson. I actually learned everything from YouTube. Usually I can play for hours per day.” He continued, “I’ve gotten so used to playing so much that when people ask me to play, I’m always ready on the spot.”

Dellona, who also owns six ukuleles, and works at The Ukulele Experience at the Polynesian Cultural Center, said he’s surprised there isn’t an ukulele club. Ultimately, Dellona said his passion for playing and helping others are the reasons why he plays so much around campus, “The reason why I keep my ukulele with me is I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to play and possibly cheer someone up.”

Writer: Will Krueger