Welcome to Ukulelear

Back in 2005 I brought a Roy Smeck ukulele to school. Kids were intrigued and wanted to try to play it themselves. The sound was pretty cool with just a few simple chords. Within a few weeks kids had bought their own Mahalo ukes and started to really enjoy playing.

Since that first ukulele group the Cal-Mum Uke club has had about forty students join-up every year. It has been a joy to teach in a school that is filled with the plinkety-plunk of the uke music.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In Between Days

I remember spending nights out dancing to this song - black sport coat, black jeans, and penny loafers. Those times are not anywhere as near as good as life today. Now the song tells me to cherish the moments with my family and children...
In Between Days by The Cure cover:

Lullaby for my daughter.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hanging Out With Jim D'Ville

Link to Jim D'Ville's website

Jim stopped by the Rochester area last week and I was able to spend some time just listening to him talk about his passion for ukulele and the water; they seem to go together so naturally. I think Jim would agree they both bring a sense of calm and serenity. I listened to him talk about the fish he had made from driftwood and then saw his video that made it all so much clearer; and below you can witness Jim D'Ville's other artistic abilities.

Link to Jim's art.

As Jim's visit to our ukulele club at Cal-Mum got closer and closer I was filled with trepidation about my lack of real playing skills on the ukulele. I have to admit to being rather star-struck when meeting Jim for the first time. I don't have many music heroes in my life; I guess I'm most impressed by someone like Jim who can play a thoughtful melody that makes me feel… something. His playing caries with it the passion that he has for the ukulele, paralleled by his ability to nurture and encourage others to do and feel the same.

I was able hear how Jim came to compose and his "Columbia Galop"  tune in the video below. I was also able to watch him play it about four times while he was here. I can't seem to get this fantastic sound out of my head. Getting it into my hands is a bit harder.

One memorable moment from Jim's workshop at Bernunzio Uptown Music in Rochester was his advice for us to forget all the other failed musical attempts we may have made in our lives. His advice was to stop listening to negative voice in our head and to start listening to the music. He went on to show us all how much we could do if we just became aware of the connectiveness of music.

Photo of Jim from his website playukulelebyear.blogspot.com

Jim ended his stay in the Rochester, N.Y. area by giving the Cal-Mum Ukulele Club a few lessons on how to just strum and enjoy music. He held the attention of more than forty fifth-graders during that hour, which is no small feat. We all walked away better for having the opportunity to meet him and play along.

From my family, the kids in the uke club, and me,
Thank you Jim D'ville.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Hole Thing

Tom came into school today and shared his experience touring the
Kamaka factory with Fred Kamaka. His tenor uke is beautiful and sounds
He didn't forget his uke buddy. He gave me a genuine Kamaka koa sound
hole disc! My own cool-little piece of Hawaii.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Tom just sent me a picture of his uke signed by Fred Kamaka. I hope I
get to touch it when he brings it to school in September.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I receive an email from our band instructor Tom, who happens to be
vacationing in Hawaii. Tom also happens to be from Hawaii but has been
living in Upstate New York for more than a quarter century. Tom has
mentioned on several occasions that he would like to get a koa Kamaka
tenor ukulele some day... Today seems to be the day, and he sent me a
picture from his Blackberry to prove it.

He already has a Kamaka soprano that he bought in sixth grade for $25.
That was a few years ago.

Congratulations Tom!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sailing and Ukulele 85 Years Ago

This is a combination of my two favorite activities. At first glance I
thought that the girl was playing a ukulele, on closer inspection I
see that it is a banjolele or banjo uke. They must have been very
popular and appear in a lot of photographs from this era. I've never
had a chance to try one.
Next week I will be sending out letters to all incoming fifth graders
to see how many are interested in joining the Cal-Mum Uke Club. I'm
not really ready to give up on summer vacation yet...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gearing Up

Summer is here and time for me to start thinking about how to manage
next year's uke club. I was stretched a bit thin last year and felt
like I hadn't been able to give 100% to the kids in the club.

We are in a very small town with a pretty active downtown - two
antique shops, cafe, library, and a coffee shop. I'm hoping that the
coffee shop could play a role in getting kids to have fun playing
their ukuleles. I'm going to see if we can set one night a month aside
for an open mic. It would be great for the kids and the coffee shop.

I also received an email from Jim D'Ville telling me that he was
coming to see our club in October. That is really a special event.
It's great timing for the kids because they will have only had their
ukes for a couple weeks prior to Jim's visit. Their minds will be open
to the great information Jim can share. I am so excited about this
that it has really motivated me to start preparing early for next
year's group.

I'm thinking that we have to get t-shirts with our club logo like we
have had in the past - nothing like a shirt to make one feel they are
part of something special (I always feel special in a club t-shirt).
I'm trying to come up with a slogan for our club. If you happen to
read this post and know of a good one that you could share, please let
me know. Right now I'm thinking I might use a play-on-words like
"Where Uke Can Be You" maybe. That one may be used already, I'll have
to Google it to see.

I'm off to read playukulelebyear.blogspot.com

Photo by allanimitchell flickr
Awarded Nikon Flickr Best Photo 5/1310

Saturday, June 19, 2010

End of the School Year Song

Thanks J for suggesting I create an end of the year song. One day I'll have to see what kind of music I could produce if I wasn't strapped for time. My classroom is torn apart with boxes and books everywhere, but I was able to clean a spot of on my desk to record this quickly written song.

Image by rcvernors "Ghosts os Schoolyears Past" Flickr

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Falling Fast

The end of the school year is fast approaching. Not really the best
time to reflect on the year because it will be an emotional time. As
in the past, I have witnessed young ukulele players' fledgling
attempts blossom into real musical abilities. I have also watched the
day-to-day learning of math and language arts taking place. But, these
practices require much effort from teacher and student. It is really
the natural attraction we all seem to have, to greater and lesser
degrees, to and for art, that reveals a clear self motivation in
people. When I see kids working on anything without a constant
prodding by me, I know that magic is taking place - the perpetual
thinking machine - the mind - is aggregating information and making
conections without the restriction of my lens. The world opens up. If
there is said to be "an art" to anything, it implies a measure of
mystery and magic. I'm not sure I can teach that, just as a farmer
doesn't teach the wheat to grow. As in teaching, farming is the art of
keeping fertile ground where the stage is set for growth. I'll think
some more on this as I go play my uke.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Poem for the Class of 2017

Class of 2017

Our classroom at the top of the stairs
messy desks and busy minds
with questions to answer
ukuleles to play
lessons to recall in future times.

We made our history together
although the records won't tell
of the small moments
and quiet triumphs
that in our minds will dwell.

With warming of days has brought a sign
our parting is ever near
the closing of books
and saying goodbye
bringing an ending to our year.

In the spanning of eternity
this time we will call our own
however far
or ever near
to Caledonia, our home.

By Kyle Leonard
Grade 5 teacher

I was inspired by my students to try and capture the bittersweet emotion that takes place every spring in the hearts of all teachers and students at Caledonia-Mumford Elementary School.

Image by kawasu29 Flickr

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Brown Ukulele

This poem was handed to me neatly folded just before lunch on Friday
without a word spoken - a gift. Working on poetry that
describes a place or thing, one student took the time to make
everything in school feel all the more special. I'm as flattered by these
words as anyone would be, but more than my flattery is my awe in the
deeper concepts of life that can be expressed in the words of one who
is only ten years old. The power of music and thought.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Poetry and Ukulele

In the waning days of the school year I have been invited to have my class work on a project that will combine student poetry with the accompaniment of ukulele music. If you are a teacher you may know what the end of a school year is like. I think of it as a runaway train heading down a steep mountain. There will be a wreck at the end, but the pieces will all be picked up and put in a box. When I open the box in September I will be mad at the "me" that threw it all in there in June.

Info about the poetry/ukulele project: http://buylocalbuildafuture.com/amylv/

The ukulele club will be playing the blues along with the band for our Spring Concert. I hope to have a decent recording to post here.

The Night Owls

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

All of Me

The Boswell Sisters

Old songs are alive and well in my classroom as can be heard in this recording of "All of Me" by a couple of my students. The recording was made during snack time, in between math and reading.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Columbia Chainless

Columbia Chainless

The steps take us happy
And We breath
Antibelum heart, warm summer night
We climb under palmetto banner

Dreams of great generations
Be mine lovely
We will make all the right choices
And feel the tug of our destiny

Need we find the stars bolted down
Memories of hard times
The rockets have long gone quiet
The lights now of traffic in our time

You a perfect rose and tea
Me cordovan tips of wings and free
And all is mixed with clove
With no idea what it would be
© 2010 KL

The Columbia Chainless:
My grandfather's 1898 Columbia shaft drive bicycle was given to me by my mom when my grandfather passed away in 1980. The name is forever etched in my mind. Years later my yet-to-be wife and I would spend chainless nights in downtown Columbia, SC; also forever etched in my mind.

Poetry From the Soul

Two of my students put this video together for a video festival during National Poetry Writing Month; the melding of ukulele with poetry has produced a really beautiful effect.

If interested, you can read the entire interview with these students at:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Practice in the Gym

We ran out of places at school to practice with thirty-five students
due to schedule changes during the year. So, the gym seems like a big
enough place to spread out and work on some tunes.
I'm still looking foreward to making some changes next year using
ideas from Jim D'Ville.
With the days getting warmer, it's starting to feel more like ukulele

Monday, April 5, 2010

Uke Evangelist

Evangelist is kind of a strong word, but it beats "ukulele pusher"
because of its more reverent tone. So, uke evangelist seems fitting
when it comes to getting others to love the ukulele because one thinks
their life would be richer and more meaningful if only they would find
their way to "the uke".
I'm sure my friend Seth will find some humor in the idea of
enlightenment through ukulele, but in a small way it does bring a
measure of joy to anyone who finds it to be something worth pursuing.
I think I may now add my friend Seth to the growing number of ukulele
players in the world. My family and I were able to spend the weekend
at his house while heading down to Carolina Beach for vacation. The
nights were warm, and our kids were happily playing as the backyard
fire glowed. A perfect opportunity to strum and catch up on life. Seth
was a "quick study" on the C Am F and G7. He really picked up the
strumming patterns quickly, and in no time was playing very well. I
hope the new uke will prove to be a fun and fulfilling diversion.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mail Call

I just got my "Play Ukulele By Ear" DVD from Jim D'Ville in the mail
this afternoon. I've really been looking foreward to watching what Jim
has to offer so I can start passing this information along to my 5th
grade uke club kids.
I kept thinking about ordering Jim's lessons, but kept putting it off.
After following all his success in Australia I knew it was time to
order. However, after being contacted by Jim in regards to his fall
tour of the North-East, Jim sent me a complimentary DVD to get the
ball rolling - what a great guy.
I'll be posting more about my attempts to use Jim's method with my 5th

Saturday, March 13, 2010

You in Shadows (ukulele song)

Just another song I wrote and recorded at the end of the school day.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Conquest of 50 (a uke Odyssey)

About five days ago Terry Hardy signed up on Twitter as 50StateUke, and I thought that is seemed like an interesting moniker. So, I followed his tweets and told him I thought the idea of playing ukulele in all 50 states was an ambitious one; because I was having trouble just playing my ukulele at home. He contacted me to clarify and share the broader scope of, what already seemed to be a monumental task.

Terry Hardy:

My plan is actually a little more complicated than I can state in 140 characters.  I am planning on learning every state song (or at least one - some states have more than one) and play them on ukulele at each state capitol. I researched the songs, and have transcribed them for uke.  I have played so far in Phoenix and Honolulu...only 48 more to go :)  I am going to do it in pieces, with multiple road trips.  Some trips will be this year here in the west (I live in Denver). I have pictures to document it, and have some video from Hawaii (I plan to video each one).  A web site will be forthcoming with me playing these songs once I learn them, and documentation as it comes along. I hope to play on my Pono concert uke (for work I take my Risa travel uke).
Anyway, that is the crazy plan.

Whoa! The word ambitious just doesn't seem to apply well to Terry's monumental plan. If you're on Twitter, I would suggest signing up to follow 50StatesUke, and become part of the Corps of Discovery in state songs on the uke.

Good luck and Godspeed Terry!

Doing wonderful things for people.
Check out: http://terryhardymusic.com/

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


So, I did it. I wrote one song for FAWM. I had high hopes that I would come up with fourteen songs, but like so many things, life got in the way. The best part is that life is good, and I really wouldn't want to change a thing. And this diversion of blogging about the coolest little instrument - one that brings happiness to anyone  - is helping me keep track of some of the nicest people...

Liner Notes to StarGirl:

I am running out of time and I feel it…
I tried to write some lyrics a couple weeks back thinking I was smart to get the poetic lines down first. But little did I know, I don't make songs that way. All the other songs I have written were created simultaneously with the chords that gave rise to the words. Nothing seemed to mesh.

So, I wrote "StarGirl" in a big rush this afternoon because I was getting frantic about seeing February slip by with nothing to show for it.
  • At about 2:10 today I thought to myself – I have to get one song together.
  • I stopped and talked with some other teachers, nervously waiting until the end of the school day at 3:00.
Then... the start:

  • 3:00 - I sit at my desk and make sure my uke is tuned - I start strumming some chords and realize I have to wait.
  • At 3:15 every day the blowers on the heater in my classroom turn off automatically, so I know I the recording will be really bad if I don't wait.
  • So, at this point I know I want to write a song about my wife, and I know it's going to be called "StarGirl" – that's all I got.
  • The blowers shut down and the quiet sounds strange: I record a couple takes with Audacity and my Samson mic and feel a sinking feeling as nothing worthwhile is being created – sadness.
  • It's now 3:30 and I know I have to pick up my son at the sitter by 4:00.
  • A fellow teacher stops in and talks to me for ten minutes.
Now it is 3:40.
  • Frantic, I try and remember the song I was working on before the interruption.
  • 3:50 - something seems to be working, probably hoping more than believing – I try again.
  • 3:55 - I have a song that I might want my wife to hear.
  • 4:00 - convert to mp3 and upload to box.net and run for the door.
I'm 15 minutes late to the sitter, but have one song.

Monday, February 22, 2010


It is very hard to not collect ukuleles; I have only three - one was a
gift from a student, the other I traded for a dinghy, and another was
a gift from my wonderful wife. But, I guess in furthering my
collection it might come down to disposable income; something I never
had the pleasure to worry about. And then looking at the line-up of
ukuleles in the picture above it just makes me want to take them all
home, but then... I don't get to practice that much. so for now I'll dream of
conspicuous consumption and more hours in a day.

Photo by Elisabethp Flickr

Saturday, February 20, 2010

L.M.'s Koa

My sister-in-law is having a replica of the Martin 3K made for her by a
friend who builds guitars - for the most part. This is a picture of
the uke in the process of having the finish applied. I'll have more
pictures soon, I hope.
I started this ukulele blog as a way of watching my children play
while I type out uke stuff on my iPhone. I'm replacing my ukulele
playing with just writing about the ukulele. Maybe people out there
can kind-of understand how hard it is to play the ukulele when your
kids don't really want to hear it. They're too young to have any
interest in it yet. So, in these in-between-days I'll just surf around
and live vicariously through other people's ukulele exploits. The live-
feed of ukulele blogs on the left side of this blog is a testiment, I
think, to the growth of the uke; I'll just keep adding my "two cents"
because it is a wonderful diversion - a way to practice writing and
stay in touch.
I wish all the best to anyone who takes an interest in the ukulele
because, really it just adds joy to the world.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Vote

Every time I visit Jim's web page I can't seem to get over the
fantastic banner art. This really sets the tone for the page - just a
timeless classic image for the ukulele instructor of today. And, all
the best to Jim while in Australia.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Art

Shelley Rickey chose one of the most famous ships in the history of music to adorn this Bruko Archback Ukulele No.4 made in Germany. She, along with artist Quin de Vrede, Marc Kolle, Rene Verberne, Guido de Groot, Johan Xtra, Daniel van Nes, have created a new on-line shop The Jumping Flea Market to bring their unique brand of "outsider art" to the public.

Shelley comments on her art:

Artist?...I don't know. People that call themselves an 'Artist' usually give me the creeps. But, I am a graphic designer & I create stuff, all kinds of stuff. I'm crazy about taking something 'worthless' and turning it into something 'priceless'. I'm also crazy about the Ukulele and try to introduce as many people as possible to this wonderful instrument. Turn off your TV and play Ukulele!

Shelley's response to how she started playing ukulele:

My mom played. Still does, once in a Blue Moon. She was a singer in Biloxi, Mississippi during the 60's. "Miss Tonda Kae". It was during the folk revival, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez....
She played a Favilla Baritone (still has two of them) and there were always a couple of Harmony ukes at home.
I'm guessing mom was teaching me chords as soon as i could hold it. But growing up i was mostly interested in using it to accompanying my singing. Didn't give the uke much thought in particular. 
I continued with music in school, sang in a choir with 72 voices, madrigal group with 16, and a girls barbershop quartet (bass!) Also played the flute for 7 years. Had many musical adventures in between - and then about 6 years ago...i picked the uke back up.

It has brought so much joy to my life.
Through the uke i've met so many incredible people, traveled to amazing places... It's been incredibly inspiring.

Shelley's always captivating ukulele blog: Selley Rickey 

Shelley and her team of artist reside in Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Monday, February 15, 2010

No Coincidence

So, I've gone through most of my life being mildly interested, amused,
and sometimes astonished by things that seem coincidental. Although,
lately I have been entertaining the thought that nothing is
coincidence. To me, this is starting to seem like a much more
interesting way to look at life - a lens that makes everything seem
meaningful and special. I've always listened to people who say that
everything happens for a reason, and in the past I've smiled and
quietly dismissed this saying as being just words to help get us
through one moment and on to the next. Now I'm thinking everything,
every-single-thing has a purposeful meaning; every word, every breath,
every thought. While trying to conceive of how this might all work I
also must take into consideration that not everyone has an equal lot
in life - for me a truly confounding part of the equation.
(Photo: Art Deco Lamp w/ Ukulele)

Friday, February 12, 2010


For me the beauty of the ukulele is not completely held in its
liltings, but part of the allure comes from the perfection of its
design. I find myself starring at the lines of my ukulele like I do
with those of a six-meter sailboat; an example of the height of beauty
in the sailboat world. There is something inexplicable about the
aethetics of perfection. With so many contemporary designs around us
that seem to find use in the awkward trapazoid, I believe it is the
beauty born of the French curve that we truly desire.
(Photo by Morburg Flickr)

Thursday, February 11, 2010


We had a lot of fun in fifth grade today - I have Skype unblocked on my
classroom computer so I can videoconference with one of my students
who is out of school for a long-term medical reasons. She watches the
math lessons from her bed at home (not quite as bad as it might
sound). We can all see her and talk, ask questions and make her feel
like she is part of the classroom again.

I had a teacher gift card I won from Walmart so I ordered a HP webcam
a couple of weeks ago, and now we are connected to the world.
We went ahead and Skyped a school down in Alabama who wanted to
partner read a book. We found out that kids in New York are just like
kids in Alabama. They have a unicycle club and we have a ukulele club,
so one of my uke kids went home and got a unicycle on eBay. School is
cool again.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Songwriter: a lyricist and composer, and then possibly a musician and singer all rolled up in one. I understand why the great ones only come along once in a while. This takes a lot of processing power. Then, of course, there is the life experiences that drive the direction of the song and music - and the style. Fourteen songs in twenty-eight days is feeling a bit illusive. 
I have to admit that this challenge has been tremendously fun already. I fill all the empty moments with thoughts of shadowy memories that could be worked into some lyrics and then possibly a song. And, while the ukulele has a bright sound for the most part, it can be played as a back drop to some sad lyrics, but I'm not sure I want to go in that direction. 

And what rhymes with shadow?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Just Because

And even if everyone in the world is better at it than you.
Make your mark.
Just because.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Inspiration Club

So, February is going by fast as I try and write some lyrics to fourteen song. This really makes February much more exciting up here in the cold North. Maybe like this pictured uke I should have my T.V. Pal with me while relaxing with my daughter watching Dora the Explorer.
The first uke song I listened to was a wonderful song entitled Emotions of the Snow by artist Whispered Candles. She was kind enough to give us all a glimpse into her late-night song writing process:

Liner Notes:12:05 AM, February 1st:
Whispered Candles picks up her ukulele and decides to write a song that mentions the cold weather. She begins to strum around with some different chords and makes up some lyrics to go along with it.

12:30 AM, February 1st:
She picks up a piece of paper, and begins to write down the lyrics she has been singing with her new chords and rhythm in mind. Then she practices the song a couple more times, becoming familiar with her newly written down lyrics.

Shortly before 1 AM, February 1st:
She opens garageband, and tests levels of the computer mic and their ability to pick up the ukulele.

Around 1 AM, February 1st:
She begins recording, scrutinizing, nervously messing up, re-recording, etc.

Shortly before 1:30 AM:
She has a complete demo recorded.
Then she decides to see if she can record a second vocal track in one take so the lyrics are more easily understood.

1:30 AM:
Vocal take was successful, and she watches with pleasure as it converts her first demo of FAWM 2010 convert to an mp3 format.

2:00 AM:
Whispered Candles had fallen asleep by this point, and likely dreamed of all the other songs she has yet to write for FAWM 2010.


I looked outside and saw the cloud
I hoped it'd be warm enough to rain
But then I called you on the phone
And you assured me that it would snow

It is so cold today
And I can't tell if it's the weather or your mood
But the chill in here is almost unbearable

We sit by the fire sipping hot chocolates and teas
I beg you not to leave
But you tell me you have work
Even though the offices are closed

It has gotten so cold here
And by now I'm sure I'm more affected by that you don't care
Well maybe I'll just disappear I can become one with the snow

A month's gone by and you are knocking at my door
But I've moved on and I don't need you anymore
You ask if you can step inside
Warm your fingers by the fire
Before you go home

Oh, and now you are so cold
But I'm happy and warm and I'll have you know
You missed your chance it's time to go I'm going outside to enjoy the snow


Friday, January 29, 2010

Magnitude of Rhyme

I noticed a post from Ukulele Perspective about FAWM.org and checked it out because I am out-of-the-loop on a majority of topics that have to do with music. Then I signed up because I was captured by the quote from Jack London that sums up the purpose: "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." I've just been reading recently about Jack's love for surfing and the ukulele and his connection with Hawaii and I thought it was an interesting coincidence; but some would say their are no coincidences, so here I go.

What I have found is a community of wonderful people all working towards the common goal of writing fourteen songs in the shortest month of the year. I've written about three in the past year so this should pick up the pace a bit.

Two of the songs I wrote I posted to YouTube, and I listened to them and thought, if it wasn't me singing and playing them, would I ever listen to them more than once. This is a very hard question. It is difficult trying to not be yourself with a critical ear for music written by... yourself.

The Wordle above was created from a lengthy thread on a FAWM post about whether or not rhyme was important in song writing. If you're into song writing, sign up the conversation is wonderful.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Aquila Effect

When I first thought that I might like to play the ukulele I found myself searching the web for information, and somehow I kept missing the fact that there was such a thing as re-entrant tuning. When I pulled the ukulele out of the closet at my parents' cottage, I thought that whoever had strung it was somewhat confused. The bridge was detached and hanging free while still attached to the strings, but clearly the string size seemed intuitively in the wrong order.
After a while I somehow figured out what was going on - I pieced the uke back together and fell in love with the sound it/I made.

Back then, in 2005, Flea Market Music Bulletin Board was the place to be for uke-talk and I became an addict. I kept reading about how great Aquila strings were; I had to get a set so I could experience what others were talking about. I found I could get them shipped to me for about $10 from Hana-Lima 'Ia in Honolulu. The envelope arrived within a week with postmarks from paradise. I was in awe of the beautiful packaging from Italy - from Italy to Hawaii to me... I had a hard time getting the number of windings on the tuning pegs right - I had no idea they would stretch that much. I was really not fully prepared for sound that came out of that Roy Smeck. I would play it for a few seconds and it would go flat. I'd tune it back up and it would go flat again - over and over. And then it stopped, they didn't stretch anymore. It was one of those moments when you want to run and tell somebody, but you realize that the best you'll get is insincere interest.

Every once in a while one of my students will get a set of Aquilas to put on a Mahalo and I'll get a chance to relive the experience, "I told you... didn't I... didn't I tell you these things are great?". And we'll both kind-of nod in quiet amazment. The Aquila Effect.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Danielle Live

Danielle Anderson on beauty:

Beauty, to me, can be anything. Things that make me happy or that make me sad.  Anything that brings about strong and powerful emotions can be really lovely. It's simple and complicated, obviously. I like a good song during the sunset on a summer day.  I like beer with chinese food.  I like laughing at an inside joke that doesn't make any sense to anyone else, but me and the people laughing. I like watching giraffes run in slow motion. I think that is really beautiful.

For those interested, a new YouTube channel DeanRichards44 has live video from L.A. of Danielle performing some of her popular ukulele songs.

Link to article from Denver Music

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Our Time

And the week has slowly continued as I think about all that is important to me. I type this post on my iPhone as I hold my daughter while she sleeps and watch my son as he plays with his trucks. I've seen the pictures this week and I can't turn away, not out of some grim curiosity, but out of the strong feeling that I need to look at the faces and feel, and connect. I'm never going to make sense out of disaster and don't try. I find that my hopes, for all I hold dear, are held fast by the outpouring from the better angles of our nature.

Thank you Photocritic.org for the beautiful photo and Mr. Lincoln for the clarity of your words.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On Record

When I first started the Cal-Mum Uke Club it was a small group of about eight students and myself just having fun learning songs like Five Foot Two and plucking Wipe Out. But, as things go, the idea of a fifth grader with a uke looked pretty cool to anyone in a younger grade. So, the next year kids wanted to be in my class because it was cool-uke-school. I had parents asking how their child could get into uke class. Today I look at my teaching career as life before the uke and life after.

I really think a lot of the fun came from the purchase of one item for our club, and lead to the creation of a recording studio in my classroom that began to motivated kids to sing and play.

I was so surprised by the effect of this microphone - even with quiet kids. I keep the mic out at all times on a boom-stand ready to record the impromptu songs that happen during breaks in lessons. The Samson Q1U Dynamic USB Microphone, a $69.95 mic I purchased from Zzounds, changed the club forever. Since the purchase three years ago I've recorded all the songs on our page with this mic along with my songs Simple Life and Garden Rambles. I just plugged the USB right into my computer at school and began recording - so simple. With free Audacity recording software and a subscription to Box.net I've recorded and stored tons of kid's songs on our web page  - all for $69.95.

If you're not recording yourself - you don't know what your missing.

Friday, January 8, 2010


As a school teacher I try to make sure that I notice things that my students do that makes them who they are, and makes the world a little better. If they do something that would make their parents proud - I stop and try to point out what it is and why it is appreciated. I know that being noticed for even little things is very important for every individual.

So, I just want to say thank you Ukulelia, it means a lot.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jacob Borshard

I started playing in 2005 and while putting a website together for my ukulele club I discovered one of the great ukulele stories of our time. If you have been a fan of the ukulele for a while you will probably recognize Jacob Borshard. But, back in 2007 when the whole uke scene was new to me I tripped across his story and his affection for Drew Barrymore. I knew I would like this guy if I ever had the chance to meet him. He really comes across a very genuine person.

Jacob in his own words from an interview on Indieblips 

"I was obsessed with Drew Barrymore starting in about 10th grade when she was a Guess Jeans model.  One of my early songs was called 'Drew' and was about her kissing E.T.  I went to see all her bad movies and let it be known that I would one day meet her. Fast forward to 2007 - I was watching TV with Sarah (girlfriend?) and we saw a commercial advertising a songwriting/music video contest where the winner would be flown to Hollywood to walk the red carpet for Drew's new movie. It seemed like the contest was made for me. I went back to Portland and got to work on a video for 'Grass Stains'. At the end of the shoot, I was getting some shots outside a seafoam colored elementary school in Portland when the cops showed up. They believed that I was trying to lure children, and it didn't help that I was wearing a cape and filming video with a webcam. They abused me a bit and gave me a trespass warning which banned me from Portland Public School property for a year. Of course I ended up winning the video contest. Sarah and I flew to Hollywood and walked the red carpet. I finally met Drew at the cast and crew after-party and she was a total sweetheart. She graciously carved her name into my uke, and that was that."

The Artist:
Jacob is not confined to music as his only artistic outlet. You can see some of his colection on his website www.creebody.com . Here is a peek inside his head with a piece entitled: Clans of the Great Pony Rebellion: