Marching Forth (as April May)

 

Hope springs eternal. As does music.  Are they not, fundamentally the same thing?  Neither could I live without.  “So, in a world of snow, of things that come and go, where what you think you know you can’t be certain of you must believe in spring and love“.

Here’s some of what is on our calendar this spring:

3/26 KALA Ukulele Day in LA at USPACE with Jim D’Ville.  I will be using my new book “Color-Along Ukulele” for my all ages class, and you get a copy to keep with class admission!  Win a Kala Waterman uke– Giving away one per class!¡! 

4/2 WAKE UP with the Waves at the Santa Monica Pier   all ages- FREE!  10:30 am-noon  We will have a crazy fun band, including Paul the Trombonist

4/16 UKULELE DAY at WILMINGTON Los Angeles Public Library Branch  all ages- FREE!!!!  (Check out their free 6-week class for kids and teens starting 3/9!)

4/24 RACHEL MANKE  lets us sit in with her at the Coffee Gallery

5/5-8 WEST COAST UKULELE RETREAT in Asilomar. If you have never been… GO! (if there are still rooms available) This is a FANTASTIC retreat with great instructors in the most beautiful, peaceful place you can imagine.  And the food’s great, too!

 

We are heading across the pond to England in June, where Daniel will be playing the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain.  To prepare, he is scheduling private house concerts and a public show at U-Space on May 21.  More details to follow as they solidify.  This will be a great show with a guest bass player and El Uke will be debuting some very snazzy new material as well as playing selections from his CD EL UKULELE.  Give it a preview!

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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).

 

The Matriarchy of Sauces

If hollandaise is the mother sauce of French cuisine, red chili sauce must be the madre of New Mexican food.  When Old World meets New World magic happens- breakfast fit for El Rey! (recipe follows)

Poached eggs in a polenta nest with red chili bearnaise. Mmmmm.

Poached eggs in a polenta nest with red chili bearnaise. Mmmmm.

I am looking forward to the cooking element of our Santa Fe adventure as much as the music!  First thing we will cook will be both red and green chili sauces.  And I’ll be putting recipes and songs and photos together into a book.  I hope you will reserve a seat at the table!

Even if you are not staying with us at the Inn, you can join in- there is a walk-in  option on the registration form, and soon we will open individual workshops to registration. (if you want to be first in line for the open registration I suggest you subscribe to the Ukulele Adventures blog post.)

And everyone is welcome at the public events, including a full-on Flamenco show at El Meson on Wednesday November 4th, and the Smoking Jackets Giant Show at Tiny’s on Friday November 6th.  Or come enjoy hearing the participants play at the Farmer’s market on Saturday morning or at La Choza Saturday night!

Full disclosure- the title of this post is the chapter heading from The Making Of A Cook by Madeleine Kamman.  That’s the book which made me a cook. Everything I know about eggs, cakes and sauces comes from the 1971 edition of this book.  I give it as a high school graduation present to every kid I know, as I think learning to cook a good omlette can save your life.  My copy is held together by tape, nostalgia and love, and I still consult it every time I make crepes.

These two pages can save your life!

The secret to life, the universe and everything

My hollandaise recipe has become somewhat free-form, but you can accomplish something like the sauce shown in the photo above if you try this:

Wisk 3 egg yolks into a cup of cold, good NM red chili sauce, add a little lemon zest and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Over a medium flame wisk constantly.  Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of COLD butter.  The butter will melt as the chili and eggs come to temperature and you will have a no-fuss emulsified sauce. Pour over poached eggs nestled onto an english muffin or polenta or spinach…to make a NM Benedict.  Or serve with fish or asparagus.

Just be sure to make enough for me, because once I hear you are making it I may show up on your doorstep- Or- join us in Santa Fe and I’ll make it for you!

The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

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!

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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.

Everybody’s New Old Favorite Song

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The Tailor and the Mouse is KILLING these days.  From preschool to adult student.  Gotta love a good 2 chord minor key comic British folk song!  I had the kids at U-Space stomping and scurrying around playing this song last week, yesterday the preschoolers requested it, and knew every word.

I wish I could post the recording we made for the coloring book here, It’s really funny! Pinche me, I don’t have the capability.  I am posting it on the Kickstarter site- here is a link.  Give a listen, get a giggle!  It will be in the book.  You know you want a copy!

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

Ready to play?

Ready to learn? Ready to play? Or both!

UPDATE: Daniel is now offering Pre-Orders for the Arpeggio Meditations book of studies. Print is set for mid September-Oct.

Go to www.Danielward.net to get yours.

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.