For a while now I’ve wanted to find some way to make music. I used to sing in a choir and I used to play in the high school band and I used to take piano and guitar lessons. That was all a long time ago. It took me a while to realize that I missed it. I put Akka in piano lessons last year and, while she went along with it, she didn’t really dive in. Aha! I’m the one who wants to make music. She’s not craving it. She’s fine. She gets music at school and sings in class every day.
I thought of joining a choir but it’s too much of a commitment and always right at dinner time. Then, in Vancouver, my Mom walked into a gathering of ukulele players. She was pretty enthusiastic about it. A week later, together in Toronto, we looked for something similar and found the Corktown Ukulele Jam. Two ukuleles later ($30 each in the shop at the end of the street) we rounded up some friends and showed up for one of their special events: a campfire sing-a-long. Um, it was awesome. I loved it.
From the first paragraph of this post it should be clear that I wasn’t the coolest kid on the block. I wasn’t really hanging out on the block that much, what with all the choir practices and oboe lessons and piano recitals to get to. I didn’t even mention the ‘gifted’ math classes or the fact that when I started high school at age 13 I could easily have been mistaken for an 8-year old boy. Oh jeez: or the Star Trek obsession (I’m sure if I’ve left anything out my sister will provide full details in the comments below).
I’ve made peace with my geekiness. I’m ok with it. But I don’t broadcast it either (well, until now) and I can confidently say that I have adult friends who have no idea what a nerd I was (well, until now). So I was a bit worried about becoming enthusiastic about a weekly drop-in ukulele jam. Wouldn’t that, perhaps, be a step backwards? It probably doesn’t help that I found out about the weekly drop-in ukulele jam from my mother?
Screw it. Ukes are awesome, man! They evoke an urban nouveau-nerd coolness (as an aside: so does knitting). They’re affordable, accessible instruments and when you get a room of them together you can play anything! In my two visits to the weekly gathering I’ve learned parts to songs by the Grateful Dead, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Nash, Nancy Sinatra and others. It’s not all “Ukelele Lady” and empty plink plink sounds. And the people who show up to these things are nice people. They like music. They like playing music. They’re very supportive of newcomers who don’t really know what they’re doing. Nobody takes it too seriously: they can make fun of themselves. Some of them knit during the open-mic portion of the evening. (Two for one!)
Ukulele night is good for me. I feel happy when I go. Plus, it takes place in a bar. I’ve already rounded up three friends to join me in a Uke101 learn-to-play class in a few weeks. It’s better for everyone if I find friendly and casual ways to indulge my music-making urges. Otherwise I’d be on my way to becoming that crazy lady who bursts into song at every opportunity, dressed head-to-toe in her favourite colour, smiling at the unfortunate people trapped on the same subway platform saying (in a sing-song voice) “I just love to siiiing! I love to make MYUUU-ZZZ–IKK! Join me at the next chorus. C’mon, EVERYBODY!” As long as I make it to a weekly uke night now and then, this future vision will never manifest. Good idea, right?