Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Curious Girl Learns To Play the Ukulele

For many years I have noticed that when teaching art to a group of preschoolers a song and movement game of some kind in the circle time beforehand really seems to stimulate their creative juices – their little grey cells as Poirot says – especially their story-telling selves. When we sing and dance first there always seems to be more involvement with the art making, and more stories told about their pictures, collages, or sculptures as they are in the thick of creation. I did not seek to learn the ukulele for this purpose but I think it is having a similar effect on moi.

I have been fantasizing about learning to play the uke for several years. I am not sure how it got into my head to begin with, but it has sat there patiently and persistently for a while. I like to make new years resolutions and for 2011 this was one of them. I had picked up a uke at a church tag sale for not much dough about a year and a half ago but had not attempted to play it. Two nights ago I was ready to take the plunge. I downloaded some basic information from online and sat down with my uke.

A friend had told me she thought mine was a baritone and it might not be the right thing for me, since my hands are quite small. I did manage to teach myself row, row, row your boat which made me quite giddy, but also realized she was right about the size. I could hardly make some of the chords (also due to complete beginner-ness and having no chops of course) and almost had to use my toes to get some of em. I awoke yesterday still slightly high from the experience however and decided to take the plunge and purchase a soprano uke if I could find one locally. Luckily I did. I found exactly the kind I envisioned and I happily handed over my Christmas money
(thanks mom and dad and Al) and brought her home. I have not named her yet but I know the right name will come to me when the time is right. I adore her already. She is a dear little soprano uke and I know nothing of her pedigree but don’t care. She is here with me now and helping me learn to make music for the first time since childhood.

I played piano as a little girl for four years from 2nd to 6th grade and had a brief but frightening stint in the school orchestra with a violin, but otherwise have not played an instrument since. I loved my piano teacher Mrs. Westerberg and loved piano, but like many young girls and boys when I got to jr. high school it was so not cool to play an instrument (not like nowadays!) and so I lapsed. I missed those lunch-time lessons at her house across the street from Watchung School where half the time was spent playing the piano and half was spent eating the little sandwich and cookie my mother had packed for me while Tippy the dog begged at my feet… but I
digress… or do I? Perhaps playing an instrument now will put me in touch with those simpler times.

 Another of my new years resolutions was MORE FRIVOLITY – and my little ukulele fulfills that one too! If last night is any indication she and I are well on our way to this goal. From the first chords I knew I had made the right choice. I love her size and her tone. I had also purchased a beginner book and I learned to play a few chords and then tackled the same row, row, row your boat, figuring since I knew the tune and it only had two chords I should be able to swing it. And swing it I did!
Again the experience made me giddy and by the end of my session I could play the tune without looking at the book or my hands and dance around at the same time. I am hooked!!!

Now, those of you that know me, know that I do tend to have a bit (?) of a short attention span for things and I also have an unquenchable thirst for always learning new things so only time will tell if I will stick with this I guess. But already I have learned a great lesson - again. Listen to that inner voice when it tells you to try something new. It is good to be a learner. It is especially good if you are a teacher.

Over the years I have explored the connection between my writing and my art making and now look forward to exploring the connection between my music making and my art making.

Anything that calms and exhilarates is a-ok by me! 

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