When I first moved to Los Angeles in the late ’80’s I saw a sign in Malibu with an intriguing, odd name. “Will Geer’s Theatricium Botanicum”. What could this place be, I wondered? On August 2, 10:30 am I get to find out first hand- and I hope you will join me there, because I have been doing some research on Mr. Geer and this fantastical place…INCREDIBLE!
Like many (of my generation) I remembered Will Geer as the actor who lived and died as Grandfather on The Waltons, a TV show my family watched together regularly. He passed away while shooting the series, and his death was incorporated into the plot. It was a profound moment in our household.
He had a master’s in botany; sang with Seeger, Ives and Guthrie; acted on Broadway; organized in San Francisco; blacklisted in Hollywood. He was a family man and a friend of Dorothy. He had a life! He spoke his mind, lived his conscience, paid the price and ultimately reaped the reward. He moved his family to Topanga Canyon, selling vegetables to make ends meet and founding a theatre where blacklisted actors and musicians could perform. That theatre has continued to grow and thrive.
Now that I have learned a little about Will, I can’t help but put together a set list for next Sunday that he might like- folk songs and stories, plenty of Woody, some Robert Frost and songs which foster a our connection to and understanding of others. Songs that, when we sing them together make the world a better place.
If you are interested in the man, the history, the lush garden, planted with every plant mentioned by Shakespeare, if you love to join in song- please join us! Sunday morning, August 2nd at 10:30 am. We will raise our spirits and our voices together in this beautiful place for one hour.
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! 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-
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?
Daniel Ward and I will be assembling at McCabes for a Sukey Jump kid’s show with John Bartlit, Craig McClelland at 11 am.
Then we will jump in the car and squeel the tires across town to the Coffee Gallery in Pasedena for a 3 pm show as The Smoking Jackets! Come out to one-or both- of these great shows!
Who are the mysterious Smoking Jackets? More on that coming soon!
MCCABES GUITAR SHOP– The magical land known as McCabes has been well known for more than 50 years as the music venue for music lovers. Every other Sunday they pull the chairs and open the doors to families with the littlest listeners and dancers. It is about the grooviest place to groove with your toddler or preschooler.
The Coffee Gallery is like a McCabes EAST. Quality music, intimate setting, great vibes. We are excited to be playing there for the first time. This show is a benefit for Laurie Kallevig’s SURVIVOR GIRL UKULELE Band. Laurie teaches ukulele to girls (and boys!) in India who are survivors of human trafficking.
The Wine Country Ukulele Festival is coming up soon, and I want to encourage everyone to consider heading up to St Helena in the Nappa Valley and joining us for a day or two or three or four of fun and learning. This event has something for all ages and skill levels. Even if you are not a player, it’s a great time. And don’t forget the WINE!
Thursday, September 4 5:30 – 7:00 pm Free Concert & Ice Cream Social for the Kiddies, to be held at Umpqua Bank, 1065 Main Street, St. Helena, CA
Friday, September 5
10am – 12pm FREE music at the Farmer’s market, and a FREE beginner’s workshop. Make sure to buy some good food to bring to the FREE Ukulele Picnic that evening!
5:30 pm – dusk Wine Country Ukulele Picnic at Lyman Park
Saturday, Sept. 6
10am – 5pm Wine Country Ukulele Festival
Free beginner’s lessons, ukulele give-aways, live music, ‘ukulele marketplace, instructional workshops, ‘ukulele building demonstrations, jam sessions, open mic, flea market, and more all at the Wine Country ‘Ukulele Festival at the Upper Valley Campus of the Napa Valley College, in St. Helena. (Admission $15. Free for children 12 and under. Extra charge for instructional workshops.)
5pm – 8pm Big Jam Saturday Night
Brand new for this year, the all-festival dinner and jam led by the original jam master, Andy Andrews, held right there at the Upper Valley Campus of the Napa Valley College so you don’t have to budge an inch…not even for dinner because the fabulous taco bar by Azteca will be coming back. Free with festival admission. Dinner will be extra. Song books will be posted soon.
Sunday, Sept. 7
10am – 5pm Aloha Day Returns!
Join Faith Ako and Steven Espaniola for a kani ka pila (Hawaiian for “let’s make music”), and a day full of Hawaiian music, dance, crafts, and food, in addition to our traditional ‘ukulele workshops (covering topics from all genres), ‘ukulele building demonstrations, ‘ukulele marketplace, open mic, free beginners lessons, ‘ukulele give-aways, and flea market…..all at the Wine Country ‘Ukulele Festival at the Upper Valley Campus of the Napa Valley College, in St. Helena. (Admission $15. Children 12 and under free. Extra charge for ‘ukulele workshops.)
The Sukey Jump Band will be celebrating Summer’s end with shows in four and a half states- Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and California: Northern and Southern. We have a passel of scheduled performances we’d love to see you at. These are officially classified as “Kids Shows”, but that is a classification we love to buck.
grown ups show. You tell me which is sillier!
…I rest my case
The Sukey Jump Band has a simple mission- to share the joy making music brings with all ages. That’s how we came by the name SUKEY JUMP! In the “old days” people would gather and sing, dance, holler and laugh at gatherings known as play parties or sukey jumps. Musicians would play, leading songs everyone could enjoy and participate in, whether they danced to a call, following directions or just stomped and jumped. Songs often familiar, inviting response and welcoming chorus.
I have a favorite quote from the film State and Main (2000) by David Mamet: “Everybody makes their own fun. If you don’t make it yourself, it isn’t fun. It’s entertainment.” There is a lack of opportunity to “make fun” for all ages. We are fast becoming a society doped on the true opiate of the masses: corporate media entertainment. To quote another film “we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this any more!”. Although I won’t be throwing my Mac out the window I will be throwing caution to the wind and inviting you to join us in our subversive acts.
I LOVE teaching at this place! Family classes, private lessons and the Weekend Ukulele Warriors Series are all starting up again on July 12 and I look forward to meeting new students of all ages. For info on signing up for these classes and directions check McCabe’s website.
UKUlear Family is a 4-week class for ALL AGES (Kids under 8 require a participating adult) I particularly like working with mixed age groups. There is so much to learn from one another and there are few opportunities for engagement with people outside of one’s age group. I love the opportunity to be with people learning and growing together. This class runs 4 consecutive saturdays at 1:30 pm. We start at the very beginning, learning songs from the start. This is a great class to get you started on a musical adventure for your entire life, whatever stage of life you are in!
Weekend Ukulele Warriors So many students from either the One-Day workshop or the UKUlear family wanted to know “What’s next?”. Daniel and I have been enjoying teaching at ukulele festivals across the country and loved the one-off format of festival classes. We thought making a weekly series of festival style classes would be the perfect idea! These Saturday noon workshops include beginner classes and more advanced lessons and are meant as stand-alone workshops.
Next week (July 12) and August 2 I will be teaching the one day beginner class PLAY THE UKULELE IN A DAY for beginners of all ages.
Here’s a rough schedule for the Warriors-
July 12 PLAY THE UKULELE IN A DAY
July 19 THE HAMMER (and how to pull it) Hammering on and Pulling off for beginners
July 26 NO CLASS!
August 2 PLAY THE UKULELE IN A DAY
August 9 Get your STRUM on Right hand technique to make your songs sing with DANIEL WARD
August 16 MAJOR TO MINOR Blues both ways with DANIEL WARD
August 23 FREIGHT TRAIN your express ride to second position chords and travis picking
August 30 FUNK IT UP Hammers, slides and a white man’s overbite with DANIEL WARD teaches you how to Play That Funky Music