Byron Yasui

'Ukelele Player



Byron Yasui received a doctor of musical arts degree in music composition from Northwestern University in 1972 and immediately served on the music composition/theory faculty at the University of Hawaiʻi since 1972, retiring as professor emeritus in 2010. His original compositions and arrangements have been performed (and recorded) internationally, including multiple performances at the Weill Recital Hall, the Purcell Room at London’s Royal Festival Hall, and many other venues, as well as three orchestral premieres at Carnegie Hall. He has received the ASCAP Standard Award for Serious Music Composing each year since 1985. In 2016, he spent the month of October as composer-in-residence at the Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island as a part of the NPAF (National Parks Arts Foundation) residency program.

Yasui remains active as a performer on three instruments: double bass (jazz bass since 1960 and part time section bassist with the Honolulu Symphony from 1963 to 2009), classical guitar (duo partner with the Brazilian guitar virtuoso Carlos Barbosa-Lima since 1987), and concert ‘ukulele soloist since 1994. As a jazz bassist, some of the legendary artists he has performed with since the 1960s include Billy Eckstine, Anita O’Day, Chris Connors, Mel Torme, Joe Williams, Freddie Hubbard, Phil Woods, Barney Kessel, Les Paul, Tal Farlow, Charlie Byrd, and a host of others, too numerous to mention. 

In 1998, he was one of the four featured soloists in the ‘Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum’s ‘Ukulele Masters concert tour of four east coast cities. In 2006, he released his solo ‘ukulele CD, “Anahola”. Since then, he was featured twice as an ‘ukulele soloist with the Honolulu Symphony Pops Orchestra. His Concerto for ‘Ukulele and Orchestra, “Campanella”, was commissioned and premiered by the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra at the Blaisdell Concert Hall in June, 2015, with JoAnn Falletta conducting and Jake Shimabukuro as soloist. This work was performed later that year by the Colorado Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Symphony. Yasui continues to compose and arrange music for ‘ukulele in both solo and ensemble settings. His latest compositions for solo ‘ukulele include Variations on “Arirang”, Korea’s national song, and Variations on “Molihua” (Jasmine Flower), a popular Chinese song.