When I was nine years old, my grandma Clara gave me a guitar for my birthday. For about six months, I walked up the street for weekly lessons — until my guitar teacher broke the disappointing news that he was moving to, well, Spain.
My interest dwindled, and I took up other extracurricular activities, including Little League baseball. I still embraced music: singing in the church choir and later, the Concert Choir at middle school.
I still enjoy listening to string music. One of my favorite stringed musicians is Israeli-American cellist Amit Peled, whom I’ve heard in concert at InConcert Sierra in Grass Valley, as well as with his “Cello Gang” (who are the students from his studio) at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, where our son is going to college.
We’re “empty nesters,” and the pandemic has keep us at home more than we’d like, so I decided this week to spend some time learning a musical instrument that is less demanding than a classical guitar: I settled on, well, a ukulele.
Boomers remember that Tiny Tim helped make the ukulele popular singing “Tiptoe through the tulips.” But my interest stemmed from something more romantic: Hearing the instrument at sunset at the “House Without a Key” restaurant at the famed Halekulani Hotel in Hawaii.
The ukulele is gaining in popularity. Japanese-American Jake Shimabukuro is a renowned ukulele virtuoso and composer, as was the late Hawaiian, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. And pop culture icon Billie Eilish has embraced the ukulele, with her signature model from Fender, the renowned electric guitar maker.
I did some research and bought a respected model from Petaluma-based Kala Music Co. at Foggy Mountain Music in Grass Valley: a mahogany concert model meant for an adult beginner. The owner confirmed it was a good choice.
Kala Music has an app to learn the ukulele online, and I signed up for the beginner’s course. I spent some time learning the chords this afternoon and figure I will dedicate about 30 minutes a day to this new endeavor.
Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until her 70’s, so I figure I can learn some songs on the ukulele as I settle into the lifestyle of “60-something.” Aloha.