Wednesday, August 31, 2005


I get most of my uke practice in at school these days, mostly during passing periods. I even have several student groupies who make it a point to get to class on time and dance to my fab uke stylings. Not to mention that students from last year drop by to request my greatest hits. I actually throw myself into these moments. I actually move more rhythmically to the music, creating the illusion of actually being talented.

Some students actually ask me to show them how to play then and there, as if playing the ukulele were easy.

Hey, I guess it kinda is. But, it IS difficult to play WELL. But one can actually achieve the intermediate level with a few simple chords played with finesse.

Today, the students worked in collaborative groups. As they did so, I wandered around the room, alternating between soft and slow tunes and faster,edgier tunes. I don't sing, because that would be distracting.

A couple of students picked up my spares and noodled with them as they did the work. This would never have happened if I played the saxophone.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

2nd Annual San Diego Ukulele Festival at the Coronado Ferry Landing in the White Tent

My original intention was to go to this festival and attend UF's song-writing workshop as a show of support to the man and his music. I actually got to bed kind of early and had a good night's rest, which has lately been unusual for me. I got up at 8 AM-which meant that I would have to rush if I were to get to the fest by 10.

Alas, I didn't make it. I got there just as UF's workshop was ending. He said that about 20 people showed up. Most participants thanked him throughout the day as he milled about. He will repeat the workshop tomorrow at 1 PM, at this workshop-starved festival.

So I guess that is one complaint: a lack of workshops. But there were many improvements over last year.

First of all, to compensate for the lack of rooms, there were a few awnings set out for workshops and performances. And, while there were fewer workshops, there were plenty of performers. A group of kids performed very nicely, rocking out to the likes of Van Morrison. Some might have thought that there were too many amateurs, but I found most of those acts pretty charming.

I would have liked more seasoned pros, however-like Lyle Ritz, Bill Tapia, and Janet Klein. Daniel Oh played a few songs,as did Ian Whitcomb. Whitcomb was under the weather so he didn't play much. He spun a few songs from a CD player and played along a couple of times. I gathered that he was ill, and perhaps had a sick relative on his mind. Daniel Oh was very good.

The view at this location, a local small theater at the Coronado Ferry landing, was beautiful. But I would have traded the view for a larger venue with actual restrooms with plumbing, if you know what I mean.

Last year, the Woman who ran the show kept a much too high profile, offering her over-priced uke paintings for sale, interrupting acts if they went overtime, she was just everywhere. She was a little less high profile this year, but still somewhat intrusive. I got the feeling that she just didn't know how to respect the performers or quietly let them know that their time was almost up. The Cerritos Ukulele Festival is much larger and you barely feel the organizers' presence.

which reminds me, the price of entry is steep for what's offered. This two-day festival offers about half (if that) of what the Cerritos offers in one day, yet charges $25 for admission. At Cerritos, you can get a full day of uke fun, with several choices, for $18. The evening luau and concert each bring the price up, if you want to extend your fun. It seems to me the San Diego fest could charge a daily price for those who plan on attending just one day.

By the way, the best part of the day for me happened about ten minutes after I got out of my car. At the vendors' area, as I passed Jumpin' Jims booth, I saw that he was selling discontinued Flukes for $99! I picked one up just as one gent said "I'll take them all" (there were four). I immediately claimed the one I held and wrote a check. Turned out to be one-of-kind. They never marketed this one. It has a flower design painted around the soundhole. Not as brightly colored as some of the others, but it plays nice.

One group of elderly musicians, called the Fun Timers, played some great old songs. One dour man, played many instruments, including the bones. He never seemed especially happy, until he stepped off the stage and wandered around the audience, snapping his bones.

This group also had a junk bass-player named Yo-Yo. She snapped the string enthusiastically, but I couldn't tell if she was really playing anything or was just for show. There was a guitarist playing a bit behind the band and it sounded like he was actually playing the bass line. Yo-Yo's bass had no mike and she seemed to be playing it backwards.

Maybe HH can help me here. This bass was like a washtub bass, except, instead of a tub, she used a trash can. There was a broomstick-like pole and a string stretched from the pole to the trash can. Now, I always assumed that you made different notes by moving your pole hand up and down while gripping both pole and string-kind of like what your would do on the neck of a real stand-up bass. Yo-Yo kept her pole hand in one place, but move her string hand up and down the string, apparently plucking the string in different places to get different notes.

So, was she a fake?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Uke Fest Preview

I was checking out the website for the San Diego Uke Fest, and it looks like it will be large on performance, while short on workshops. The only qualifier in that assessment is that, if last year was any indication, the schedule tends to be pretty fluid. At the ticket booth, there was a chalk board (I think) with the schedule that seemed to change throughout the day.

Most of the acts from last year seem to be gone:Lyle Ritz, Bill Tapia, Janet Klein. But there are a lot of other acts scheduled-Daniel Ho among them. Most of the performers are groups I never heard of. They sound like they might be mostly civilian groups, which sounds fun to me.

UF said that he didn't want me to attend his workshop because he would feel like he was being watched or something. I thought of just asking for a copy of his book, but I think I need him to explain it to me. So I'll probably go anyway.

I also notice that they will be offering a uke fest cookbook. Looking at sample pages online, it looks like authentic Hawaiian food, mixed with dishes that somehow work uke-speak into their names. Like Princess Pupula Has Plenty Papaya Salsa.

Most of the dishes look like direct violations of the diet I am putting myself on.

Also, there is a Ukes for Troops program advertised. Looks like you have to cough up a lot of dough if you want public acknowledgement, but I will probably donate something, if they'll take smaller donations.

At the very least, this will be a good warm-up for the Cerritos Uke Fest.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

San Diego Uke Fest 2

I'm considering going to the 2nd Annual San Diego Ukulele Festival. My friend and colleague UF is conducting a workshop on song-writing and just being around ukuleles makes me a little happier. These days, it takes a lot to cheer me up.

We both went last year and it left something to be desired. The music was good and what I saw of the workshops was good, but the lady who ran it gave me the willies. I wondered whether she actually ever played a ukulele. Her presence was just too intrusive and she had all of theses paintings she had created that had ukuleles in them-huge price tags. And the paintings were bad.

But, like I said, the music was good. Bill Tapia and Lyle Ritz did a duet performance. There was also a Hawaiian slack key guy who performed. I didn't attend any workshops. But I listened a lot.

I went to the last two Cerritos Uke Fests and the improvement from one year to the next was impressive. So, maybe SD Uke Fest will show similar growth.

I'll let you know.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Taking Requests

So the new school year is underway for me. We have had five days of instruction. As always, I stand outside my classroom during the passing period and play my ukulele.

What's is different is that my teaching partner and I get lots of visits from last year's students. Practically every passing period, a half-dozen or so students pass by on their way to class. Some of them ask me to play them a song. So far, I haven't turned anyone down. Sometimes, I goof on songs that I know, because I'm a little embarassed.

I think from now on, when they request, I will take the opportunity to perform. When they get sick of it, they'll stop asking. It will be good rehearsal time and it will add to the ambience of the school.

Towards the end of last year, a senior who walked by every day, Said to a friend "I'm going to miss that," as she passed. She was referring to my playing. I was touched, if not flattered. I'm still not a virtuoso, after all.

A entered the classroom once last week, still strumming, and a student asked me if I did that to calm the class down. I don't really, but I have noticed that it can have a quieting effect.

I have a class of seniors this year-many of whom had me two years ago. A couple of them gravitate to the two ukes I have on display on my desk and strum them.

I think that on Friday, I might take my bodrhan and play that during passing period and see how that works.