HOLIDAY 2018 GIFT GUIDE

Spicy? Sparkly? Plucky? Looking for something for the uke disciple, a gift-to-self,or  a show of affection or appreciation?I believe in gifting life skills, not landfill, sharing experiences over swapping expendable. If you are counting your blessings and scheming about giving, I have a few gift ideas for you. From FREE to fantasy, here are some priceless gifts you can give,and five of them are absolutely free!

GIVE AN EXPERIENCE Go to the source: take trip to Hawaii. Immerse yourself in old-style Hawaiian music and culture on the quiet island of Molokai. Daniel and I are thrilled to be sharing Uke Ohana at this intimate retreat at the Pu’u O Hoku Ranch and Halawa Valley, April 5-9. Every level, from beginner to advanced will share in the magic of the Island and the beauty of Aloha. This would be an extraordinary gift to share with a beloved, adult family members or to give as a gift to yourself.

GIVE A SONG Work up a tune, just one. Doesn’t have to be perfect or fancy.  Maybe make a card, letting them know the song is their gift. And sing it to them, in person, on Skype, over the phone: to a group- maybe your whole family! Sing it with them. Print out copies, share it with the world.  Free!  Priceless, really. (Mom, are you reading this? Now you know what I want!) A GIFT TO YOU from Daniel– a great song to learn and share! FREE! The first study in his Arpeggio Meditations book is available online with a tutorial from Ukulele Magazine!

GIVE AN INSTRUMENT Beginner? Child? You can’t go wrong with an Ohana SK-10. Solid durable, great intonation, a real instrument at a starter price. These are the instruments I requisition for schools and library programs. They come in some delightful colors, too. (with bag, strap, button and tuner,$79 at Mim’s)

Intermediate, or adult beginner? I love Ohana’s CK 50 WG.  I play mine almost every day.  Big bright voice, classy rope binding, highly figured wood, geared pegs. Get a cute tweedy case to go with it and it’s an instant classic.  String with either hi or low G, concert size is versatile and not too big. ($239 at Mim’s)

Missing your bass strings? KoAloha has a tenor sized 6 string guitalele.  It’s like a guitar with a capo on the fifth fret (tuned ADGCEA). If you have guitar a repertoire hiding in your past, this instrument gives you an opportunity to share with ukulele players. Great intonation, portable and sounds great. Daniel is digging his!( $748 at Mim’s )

GIVE BEAUTY AND UTILITY Beautiful sparkly UKULELE STRAPS.  Liz Olney is busy at her workbench making these beautiful straps. Lined with lambskin, studded with Swarovski crystals they are all the jewelry you will ever need to wear. Daniel and I have one for each of our “on stage” instruments. Liz just finished this lovely custom strap to go with this GORGEOUS Michael DaSilva ukulele. (Michael builds dreams. I don’t know a player who doesn’t lust for one of his instruments) Breath taking.  If bling is not your thing, she also makes them plain or with studs.($80-$150+shipping, custom straps may be more)

GIVE BOOKS and LESSONS

Arpeggio Meditations Book for all levels ($20) Video tutorials for Arpeggio Meditations($6.99) This has become a favorite for students of all levels.  The first piece is easy for beginners,Classes and groups LOVE playing this together! Later studies are challenging for advanced players. They are beautiful to listen to– especially when Daniel plays them! The Arpeggio Meditations Companion Mp3s are great background soundtrack to relax you in your day, and a good gift idea… FREE!

Color-Along Ukulele for children and adult beginners– be sure to download the FREE soundtrack!($15) They will make you laugh, contain tons of additional verses, will teach you the songs by ear, and are useful in a classroom. There is a section in the back of the book of tips for how to integrate the lessons into a kids class or club setting.

Ukulele Magazine subscription Lessons, articles, festival listings… A great way to be part of the ukulele community.  We love getting our copy in the mail, learning about other artists and innovations. Daniel and I are regular contributors, check out his lessons with videos that he creates for them! (On sale now! $20 for 1 year/4 issues)

Death By G-String by C.C. Harrison – murder mystery set in a ukulele club! Great fun read! Available in most bookstores or at Amazon

Sign someone up for a LIBRARY CARD. Many libraries now have ukulele to lend! Plus learning materials and fantastic events. I will be teaching ukulele at several libraries this spring- and it’s always FREE!

GIVE EL SABOR! Ok, mom, I lied. This is what I really want: CHENCHO’S CHIMAYO CHILE! The best red chile in New Mexico comes from the village of Chimayo, and as far as we know, the best chile in Chimayo comes from Crescencio Ochoa’s mule-plowed farm. Call him or text him at (505) 573-9801. He will grind your order the day he sends it priority mail and include an invoice written on a scrap of paper, you mail him back a check. Old school, pure (red) gold. ($30. a pound)

GIVE NOURISHMENT This year, our gift to you is Daniel’s Holiday Bean Recipe.  You might need to order some of Chencho’s red chile to make it authentic, but if that is not in range, look for powdered New Mexico Chile Molido in the grocery store where the Latin foods are sold. These are delicious any time of year, straight out of the pot, but if you want the best low-brow feast on earth, consider serving them as the chili in Frito Pie, as we did in Santa Fe at the Culinary Uke Fiesta this November.  That is, put some Fritos in your bowl, cover with a dipper of the beans, then top with your favorite condiments, including: shredded iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, finely diced onions and shredded cheddar cheese. Now THAT’S a Holiday dinner!

DANIEL’S HOLIDAY BEANS

1 ½ Cup Dried Pinto beans

2-3 wedges Ibarra brand Chocolate (if unavailable, another Mexican Chocolate or  2 oz darkest chocolate)

1 Bay leaf

½ teaspoon Smoked Paprika

1 Tablespoon crushed Oregano

½ teaspoon Ground Cumin

1/4 Cup Chencho’s Chimayo Red Chile powder (or more according to taste)

3-4 turns of a pepper mill

2 whole cloves

heaping ½ teaspoon salt

5 Cups Water (or more)

1 Whole Orange (unpeeled)

Splash Olive Oil

Cook:

Approximately  5-6 hrs in a crock pot, on on stove, or 1 hour in an Instant Pot. open kettle and reduce liquid till saucy, or if dry, add liquid.

Squeeze juice out of orange and discard rind before serving

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Why I Uke

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Thank you, Ukulele Magazine, for asking me to write this article.  I love reading people’s comments about the friends they have made through ukulele, about playing for Alzheimer’s patients, about songs of childhood which still sing in their soul.

May 2016 bring us all more opportunities to share, to love and to connect.  Here’s to raising our voices together this sweet 16!

 

Jack-of-all (profligate) Trades.

As if “musician” and “actor” weren’t enough improvident career choices I can now add “writer”. What’s next?  Perhaps I will take up landscape painting! Epic poetry! Middle-aged ballet! Or maybe I’ll go back to school and finish a degree … in art history.

me and my big mouth

me and my big mouth

Ukulele Magazine is the first prosecution witness to the newsstand with two pieces of evidence: a short article I wrote for them and an ad for our forthcoming book, COLOR-ALONG UKULELE. Sometime soon Stories of Music will corroborate the evidence, so I admit my guilt and accept the consequences.

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I am a little behind on my website update, but very soon there will be a page, a widget, a button a link… all that.  For now, if you want to order you can send me a message here and I will see it through.

Thanks again to James Barnett for the elegant B&W photo, Mark Lerner for the amazing graphic design and El Rey for the Color-Along art

Santa Fe U’ke ‘Ole-le

It’s that time of year! CHILE is roasting everywhere in New Mexico, and ex-pat New Mexicans are roasting chile anywhere they can find it. Even grocery stores in Los Angeles are selling Hatch green. We blistered up a few pounds and ate them on the spot.

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Before

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Durring

Here’s what it looks like now:

Santa Fe brewing co. is among several local craft brewers who make KILLER beer!

AFTER!     NB: Santa Fe Brewing Co. is among several local craft brewers making KILLER beer!

Southern New Mexico is known for it’s green chile, but Northern New Mexico is where the best red comes from.

Red and green chile are essentially the same plant, but red is left to ripen, and is then picked and strung into picturesque ristras to dry in the sun.  Fresh green is roasted and peeled, dried red is either powdered or pulverized into a sauce. (There just may be an article in the coming Ukulele Magazine were I go on about this, and it just may have a recipe included.)

I can’t wait for the first weekend in November, because that’s when Daniel and I go back to Santa Fe for the The New Uke Culinary Fiesta.  First order of business will be to teach everyone how to make red and green chile sauce.

There are still a few spots left for anyone who wants to sign on, and soon we will be announcing opportunities for “locals” to join the fun, including the full-on flamenco show by Miel Amarga (with Daniel on guitar) at El Meson, and a show by The Smoking Jackets at Tiny’s.

Full Smokin' Jackets! Craig McClelland, Heidi, Daniel Ward and John Bartlit.

Full Smokin’ Jackets! Craig McClelland, Heidi, Daniel Ward and John Bartlit. fab shot by http://www.allisonphoto.com/

U’KULELI!      CHILI!

If music be the food of love… I think we are in no danger of pining away!

 

Loading the Mag

Way back in the day- wearing the tape roll belt in Thailand

Way back in the day- 1990? wearing the tape roll belt in Thailand

When I was a second-camera assistant I occasionally loaded mags- that is put the film in to the mickey mouse ears.  Ironically, film no longer exists on most film sets. Co-incidentally, neither do I. It is debatable if movies are the better for the shift from film, but as to my own personal happiness, I can tell you I am the better for shifting away from it.

But I have not left the magazine behind entirely- I now find myself loading up its uke homonym: Ukulele Magazine. Last year I was surprised to see my mug on the front cover, and this issue lands me in the contents again.  I really like how the magazine has grown, getting better with each issue- more pictures, sophisticated writing, clean editing and great lessons.  Just in time for the growing community it serves.

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I enjoyed a long conversation with writer and musician October Crifasi about kids and ukes, and lots of our chat is in her article, as well as a bunch of photos from a workshop I taught in Phoenix a few years back. The attendees were the beautiful people from Global Family Philanthropy, the folks Daniel and I went to Haiti with. Photogenic Junau who is from Haiti and now studying in the US takes up some prime real estate!

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Last week a crew from Ukulele Magazine came up to the West Coast Ukulele Retreat, one of the most fun and picturesque of uke events. Shutters were clicking and they even videotaped our dining hall flash mob.  Looking forward to seeing what lands in the next issue!

Shenanagans at West Coast Uke- we really need to loosen up!

Shenanagans at West Coast Uke- we really need to loosen up!

ukehead

El Kabonged!

This weekend I am heading east for Ashokan Ukulele Festival.  Join us if you can!  There are still spaces in the workshops, or you can attend just the concert Saturday night, with performances by all the instructors, including Paul Hemmings, Gerald Ross and Joel Ekhaus, Marcy Marxer… playing with the big kids! Click here for discounted advance tickets.

Looking further ahead on the schedule there are family classes scheduled in June at U-Space, free shows at libraries and parks in Los Angeles and the Rocky Mountain Ukulele Festival in July.

And a recording session for the coloring book and another new project in the works!  No rest for the wicked!

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

Ready to play?

Ready to learn? Ready to play? Or both!

UPDATE: COLOR-ALONG UKULELE, our book for young people who want to learn uke is available at www.Danielward.net Be sure to download the FREE SOUNDTRACK!

Is my child old enough to learn ukulele?  At what age is a kid ready?
A friend 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 temperament.  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 a child can play with, and eventually play, is a great thing at any age.  $50 models are well suited for this.  Instruments, not toys; nothing precious–if they get broken… meh. Here’s my favorite starter: Ohana sk-10 from MIM
Tune them as often as you can.  Write “G” “C” “E” and “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”. Encourage strumming with a steady beat and clap along, saying “one, two, three, four…one, two…”.
      On the whole, I see kids in 3rd and 4th grade  having the motor skills, ability and  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 music and 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 musical 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. Also, kids value what we value, and if they see music is important to you, it will be important to them.
      In private lessons or small groups I see kids at 6-8 able to focus and enjoy their achievements.  I have taught  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. The parent will finish up the allotted time …and then some.  When I return the following week, I will often hear that the little kid was singing the song we covered and messing around with their instruments the next day.
      So- for the experience of making music, your kid is ready, regardless of age. They do it every day. Having an instrument to experiment on will give them tools they may be craving. They learn songs by ear fast- and never forget them!
The first 3 songs (in our book)  can be played by very young kids, 3 and up. They are strumming on the open strings of the ukulele, learning basic rhythm. Great developmentally appropriate goal!
But to really be able to play the instrument… probably 7-9 years is a realistic expectation.
They are NEVER too young to see and hear YOU learn to play!
What are you waiting for?!

Kids, Hospitals and Ukes

What a great idea!  Kids in hospitals being given ukuleles under the guidance of music therapists!

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Got Fleas?

 

On Monday I talked with Corey Bergman by phone as he walked the beach in Floridian. The man who founded the Ukulele Kids Club Inc with his wife Edda in January 2014 with the mission of donating ukuleles to children’s hospitals nationwide for music therapy programs is as enthusiastic as he is energetic. I have a feeling he never sits still.  He thought COLOR-ALONG Ukulele would be a great tool for the therapists working with the kids. A nice stack of books will be heading their way thanks to the generosity of Kickstarter supporters who have chosen the donation rewards.

Check out his website, read the article in the issue of Ukulele Magazine with Jake Shimummicantpronounceit on the cover. It will make you happy. I am doubly happy that we will be sending him some books!

We have 7 days left of our Kickstarter campaign, which ends 4/1/15.

If you would like to send books their way you can specify in your pledge and I will be sure the books are sent their way and happily double the number of books per-pledge sent. Click here to visit the Kickstarter page.

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Coming soon to a library near you!