Good Times at McCabes

This Saturday I will be starting a new 3 week session of UKULEAR FAMILY at McCabesand we have a SUKEY JUMP show there on Sunday February 21 at 11 am!

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photo by Jill Richards

What is the UKULEAR FAMILY?   It’s an all-ages beginning ukulele class. Sometimes I have a room full of kids (under 8 require a participating adult). Sometimes I have all grown-ups! No matter how the demographics come together, we always have a grand time and learn a lot. Mixed ages might seem impossible, but I treasure the space where we all learn together. The truth is, adults and children all need the same thing to learn: clear instruction, repetitive practice and patience. 

Childhood is a time of magical growth. There is a golden window when a child has achieved the motor skills and brain development necessary to play an instrument, but the self-critical voice that says “you aren’t good enough” does not yet ring in their ears. They are shameless! And that is their greatest strength.

Many adults leave music when the leave their childhood and don’t return until they are old enough to step past that wall of shame. When you no longer care what others think, you can be like a child again- fearless and ready to take things on. It is a glorious time in life! Some adults are escorted into freedom by their children, they come hand in hand. Some adults have longer to wait until they have the time to pursue the things that bring joy.

However you come to make music, (and I sincerely hope that you do), if it should be that this Saturday you are ready to start playing, all the better! Meet me at McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica at 10:30 am.

…perhaps if you are really feeling fearless you can join us on stage for a number when we have our….    SUKEY JUMP!

What is a Sukey Jump? It’s a song and dance party, where people get together to make their own fun.  That’s why we named our band the Sukey Jump Band!

Sunday February 21 we are making up a set list of our favorite dance songs and are playing them in McCabe’s famous concert room for all ages at 11 am.  Funk and folk come together, and we will move and groove for an hour. It’s only $10 (kids under 2 free).

 

How Old (or Young) Should a Kid Be to Learn the Ukulele

Ready to play?

Ready to learn? Ready to play? Or both!

Is my child old enough to learn ukulele?  At what age is a kid ready?
      A backer with twins asked me this question in message.  I started to write.  And kept writing.  A few hours later I realized I had written a blog post.  This answer pertains not just to our  book, COLOR-ALONG UKULELE  but to all kinds of questions parents have about kids, music and ukulele.
      There is a Long Answer and a short one.
The short answer ….it all depends on the kid, approach and the expectations.
      Here it comes– brace yourself, pour a drink: The Long Answer.
      Kids learn through a feedback loop, and progress is determined by their developmental readiness in response to their environment and their temperment.  When children are given stimulus to emulate, especially stimulus  which relates to them and to which they can relate– they take off in the areas that engage them.  I am sure you have either experienced or heard from parents how much faster younger siblings walk, talk etc… than their older counterparts.  One reason is that they are surrounded by stimulus relating to them, showing them how to be a child.
      Music, like language, is learned initially through a feedback loop.  It is a rare youngster who, at 5, is ready to physically finger chords or is mentally able to sit and play for more than a few moments.  But that does not mean that they are not learning! They are learning all the time, and music is no exception.
      The illustrations in the book, the fun pictures and the chord diagrams, give a visual focal point for the youngest kids.  Many wee folk love to look at pictures.  The recordings create the feedback loop of sound.  Kids learn intervals, melodies, and lyrics with alacrity.  When we know a song a song by heart before we try to learn to play it on an instrument, the outcome can be pure joy (and less frustration).
      Having an instrument on hand which children can play with, and eventually play, is a great thing at any age.  $35 models are well suited for this.  Instruments, not toys; nothing precious–if they get broken… meh.
Tune them as often as you can.  Write “G” “C” “E” “A” on the tuning pegs and number the strings with a sharpie!  Put a sticker on the fretboard where a finger should be placed to make a C chord.  Let a kid put stickers on the body with impunity!  Draw a smiley face on the top/side of the instrument to re-enforce “this end up”.
      On the whole, I see kids in 3rd and 4th grade  having the motor skills and the ability developmental maturity to really learn.  That is when I can take a classroom of 30+ kids and, in the course of a few weeks,  get them to play songs with 4 chords.
Ready or not.... here she comes! AKA musician's kid having fun in a dressing room.

Ready or not…. here she comes! AKA musician’s kid having fun in a dressing room.

      I have known a few kids- very few- who are really ready to play at 5 or 6.  Often they are kids of musicians who have grown up in households filled with experimentation, rehearsing; who have watched their parents sweat and rejoice the same way they do. Kids who are driven to practice, and know how to do it. It is pretty rare. (In fact, just as many musician’s kids are apathetic towards the idea of playing or performing)
      I do know that young kids who learn along side their parents learn better.  Children learn through watching us model behavior far more readily that they do through instruction. Some parents who feel insecure about their abilities worry about modeling effectively.  I don’t.  I think kids “ears”  grow irrespective of an adult’s shortcomings in pitch or rhythm.  To see a parent try, struggle, unafraid of failure… that is big. Perhaps even bigger than learning ukulele.
      In private lessons or small groups I see kids at 6-8 able to focus and enjoy their achievements.  I do private lessons for families in their homes.  A parent or two, and a couple of siblings, together sitting on the floor.  Rarely will a child of 5 or younger participate for more than 5 minutes.  Older kids may hang in for 15 or more, then the parent fills the allotted time …and then some.  The following week I will often hear that the little kid, whom the parents thought was not engaged,  was singing the song we covered and messing around with their instruments the next day.
      So- for the experience of making music, the recorded music- your kid is ready, regardless of age.
To play- for the first 3 songs (in our book) they can be quite young, 4 and up.
To really play– probably 7-9.
They are NEVER too young to see and hear YOU learn to play!
What are you waiting for?!

Springing

Never a huge fan of the “spring forward” idea, but we are setting our clocks tomorrow night anyhow. Time to set our calendars as well. Here is what’s up for us this spring:

First off, the KICKSTARTER campaign for Color-Along Ukulele :  We funded on March 4th, just after I blew some candles out.  Thanks, everyone for the birthday surprise!  We will continue to take pre-orders and may need to make a larger than expected first run!  Huzzah! We are also able to reach out to more in-need programs.  If you have one to nominate, let me know!

ONGOING:

Family Sing-Along at Chevalier’s Bookstore in Larchmont Village, Los Angeles every Tuesday morning, 10 am. It is a privilege to be here every week. The last of the great LA independents!

Saturday morning family ukulele classes continue, 10:30am,  at U-Space (Not too late to join!) 3/7-21 and a new class will start at McCabes, 3/28, 4/4 and 4/11. Daniel has a class right afterwards for adults at U-Space at 11:30. Learn some great technique from a pretty darn amazing player and teacher!

SPECIAL EVENTS:

Charley Miller’s Concert for Uganda March 15th, 4-7 pm.  Charley is a uke-loving music teacher and great musician who also is a caring humanitarian. This intimate concert at a private residence is open to the public.  Click the link for details.

March 18th 10:30 am  Memorial Library Toddler Story Time. I love sharing with kids in libraries! I love libraries! Humanity’s greatest invention!

5 pm Friday April 3 at Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica, CA  we are doing a FREE CONCERT!

April 7 I am proud to have the pleasure of teaching a ukulele class to the Children’s Librarians of the Los Angeles Public Library. (If you happen to be one and want more information, contact me!)

April 18th is the first SANTA MONICA UKULELE FESTIVAL Daniel and I will be teaching and performing at this exciting new shindig with a bunch of shining stars from the ukulele world. 1-8:30 pm

April 25th we head to PHOENIX for the Festival of Tales at Paradise Valley Community College. Can’t wait to see some Phoenix phriends!

May goes CRAZY with both the West Coast Ukulele Retreat (for Daniel) May 13-17. This is my FAVORITE uke event, and I might just have to stalk him!      ….But I will be too busy with the Ashokan Ukulele  Festival in NY,. This will be my first time at this festival, and I am thrilled!

Please join us for a class, a caper or a Color-Along! We will be happy to see you, wherever our paths cross.

All for uke and uke for ALL!

As you may know I am a BIG fan of music’s magical power to bring people together.  The songs we know connect us to people and places far and near.  Starting with the bond of lullaby and ending with the bagpipe’s requiem, music is with us all our lives.  I could go on and on… in fact, I do!

Family style!

Family style!  Photo by Jill Richards

I did just the other day to October Crifasi, who is writing an article for Ukulele Magazine about ukulele for kids (that’s the same magazine which had me on their cover last spring!).  We talked, among other things, about family music- how great it is to teach parents and kids together.  The bond it creates within the family, the service it does for both parent and child.  You can read about it in Ukulele Magazine’s next issue (unless they decide to not print it- you never know).

Or you can come and live the experience!  I have two series classes for families starting up:  A four-Saturday session starting February 28th at 10:30 am at Uspace– the new downtown LA ukulele shop-school-venue-cafe located in the Japanese American Cultural Center.  (I am also working on a week long kid’s ukulele summer camp there. More on that soon)

And a 3-Saturday 10:30 am series at McCabes in Santa Monica starting March 28th.

I am also hard at work on a book! If you have taken a class with me before you have probably taken home at least one of my handouts.  I have been illustrating my lessons, and when I teach an all-ages class I always have Art Stix  or crayons on hand to give the kids who get antsy mid lesson.  They can do some coloring while the adults keep playing.  They make their own songbooks, and by the end of a semester or session they have.. a bunch of sheets of paper that all get lost.

So- I decided it’s time to get it together!  Our current project is a ukulele method book with illustrations and companion recordings.  Copies will be available to pre-order through Kickstarter soon.  You will be hearing all about that once the campaign is launched!  The art by El Rey is FANTASTIC!  here is a sneak peek at the cover-

Uke Songbook Mockup Front Cover only for Kickstarter640 x 480

So much going on! So many festivals coming up, concerts for families… I have not had a chance to post photos from all the great things that have just happened- like the trip to Mexico…. AMAZING!  If I can get the time together to make it back to the computer I will be popping some pictures up here as well as updating our schedule for the spring.  So many great opportunities to share music!  How lucky are we?

This Is Not A Test (Kitchen)

Preparing to teach a cooking class  at the end of January at the La Semana de Uke retreat on the shores of lake Chapala  in Jalisco, Mexico means testing out some recipe ideas at home.

There are still a few spaces available to join us on this adventure which includes hiking, photography, cooking and music.  Those of you locked in a cold wintery area: I especially recommend you consider packing a small bag and jumping on the first Aeromexico flight you can book.

Here is an enticing food-a-logue to get you thinking about it.

Last week Daniel wanted to work on a flautas/taquito idea.  Poor me,  I had to suffer the consequences.

Looks tasty already!

Looks tasty already!

While gigging in Baltimore(of all places), Daniel had eaten some really tasty appetizers in a fancy Mexican joint.  Flautas con pollo were on his mind: crunchy “Mexican egg rolls”, spiced with chili, oregano, zest and juice of orange, lime and lemon… mmmm.

First, a chicken was spatchcocked and roasted,  (OK, I just love to say “spatchcocked”.  But admit it- don’t you?) shredded and mixed with the citrus, plus onion, garlic, herbs, chillies and other seasonings.

There are always some secrets kept, even in the most intimate of relationships.  Even between blogger and reader.  It is what keeps our relationship fresh.  So, yes- there may have been salt and pepper added.  Perhaps even olive oil.  But I’ll never tell.

The tiny test kitchen gets a workout!

The tiny test kitchen gets a workout!

Flour tortillas were filled and rolled with the heavenly stuffing, but instead of frying…IMG_7415he baked them in the oven.  Red Chili from Chimayo, New Mexico makes the sauce… and it is never a party without a little guacamole!

 

he baked them in the oven.  Red Chili from Chimayo, New Mexico makes the sauce… and it is never a party without a little guacamole!

Daniel gets serious about plating

Daniel gets serious about plating and garnish

and….

Mmmmmm...   Nuf said.

Mmmmmm… Nuf said.

The next day he made the same thing,  but with corn tortillas, taquito style.  Even better.  Kid tested, kid approved!

However,  I think he needs to work on this idea some more, don’t you?   My mouth is watering just thinking about it!  If you can’t stop by for dinner this week you should definitely check your schedule for the last week of January…   Learn more about joining us at http://ukuleleadventures.com/

com com com nom nom nom.

 

 

 

Day-after the Dead Show

Our First Show!   This shot was taken 11/1/09   It's our 5 year anniversary

Our First Show! This shot was taken 11/1/09 It’s our 5 year anniversary

DAY-AFTER THE DAY OF THE DEAD

Kid’s Show with
HEIDI SWEDBERG and the Sukey Jump Band
at McCabes!
Is Halloween ever really over for little ones, who dress up every day?
We’ll sing songs and tell stories in a show just for the pre-school crowd.
Sunday November 2, 11 am     
$8   Kids under 2 FREE
and yes, it will be a busy day-
at 3 I will be at the Coffee Gallery in Alta Dena for a benefit show for Survivor Girl Ukulele Band!

 

Ukulele Trafficking

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I want to FILL THE HOUSE!  This show is a benefit for Survivor Girl Ukulele Band, and once you read a little about what it is and what it’s all about I know you will want to support this incredible project, too!  I’ll be at the Coffee Gallery in Alta Dena at 3pm with my new band The Smoking Jackets and I really hope I’ll see you there. If you can’t make it but would like to contribute to this project, follow this link!  The text and images below are lifted from an article which appears in Hometown Pasedena.  The WHOLE ARTICLE is worth a good read!  Check it out!

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For most of us, human trafficking is a grim statistic in the news. For Laurie Kallevig, it’s up-close-and-personal. She works with survivors of human trafficking in India.

Laurie’s work is unique; she brings ukuleles to India and teaches girls (and more recently, boys) to play the instruments. She hopes, eventually, these young survivors will “write the soundtrack to the movie of their own lives.”

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Kim Ohanneson: Describe your typical day with the children. What is the age range?

Laurie Kallevig: My typical process is to start with a small size class, just six girls, and teach them for a few days, building in a lot of individualized attention and a lot of fun and success. We start with songs that they know, songs in their own language.

Soon I add another small class to the schedule and maybe even have one of the students from the first class join the second class and help to translate and teach. Next, I combine the two classes and have twelve students at about the same level. Then I add another class of beginners, and so on, building to up to two or three classes per day, each about an hour and a half in length.

Last year in Pune, I was in a rescue home that had mostly major girls, 18 years and older. Most were in the 19 to 22 year old range, but a few students were in their early 30s.

This year in Mysore (working at Odanadi Seva Trust), my students ranged from 9 years old to 19 years old. And while I didn’t have formal classes for the little ones, I tried to make time to let the little ones (5-8 years old) come in and play and strum and make believe they are rock stars.

Often the students can’t stop playing, even to pay attention to learn the next thing, and I like to think they are lost in ukuleleland—that magical place of sound and vibration and strum, strum, strumming; a place where the bad memories fade and the music and hope and dreams of a better future come to life.

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KO: Where in India have you shared music and the ukulele? Where would you like to go next? Do you hope to expand beyond India?

Laurie: Last year in 2013, I taught for about four months in a rescue home in Pune. Most of my longer-term students were repatriated to their homes in India and Bangladesh, and then unfortunately, that rescue home discontinued the survivor girl ukulele band project. (That’s a whole other story.) So then for six weeks I experimented with teaming up with an organization in Mumbai and taught at one of their drop-in centers in a small red-light area. The women I taught there were working prostitutes and pimps.

This year, 2014, I was teaching at the renowned Odanadi Seva Trust in Mysore. They have a girls home and a boys home, and I taught at both homes.

Survivor Girl Ukulele Band Project 2015 will be in Kolkata, one of the largest human trafficking hubs in the world. I’ll be working at the shelter homes of Sanlaap (sanlaapindia.org). They have over 250 girls in their four shelter homes, and I am really looking forward to it!!!

Many thousands of girls are trafficked from Nepal and Bangladesh into India, and I hope to expand SGUB Project to both of those countries some day.