A ukulele is in the house

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.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

6 thoughts on “A ukulele is in the house”

  1. Ten years ago, my son’s band played with another teenage band whose lead female singer played the ukulele.

    Played at Thursday Night Market, Fair. All NEO performers. My son substituted drums once in a while.

    Excellent times and a very good band.

    All grew up.

  2. Jake is coming to The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley on 12/2. The details are here:

    “JAKE SHIMABUKURO CHRISTMAS IN HAWAII • 12/2 @ 8:00pm
    Ukulele master and jolly ambassador of aloha, JAKE SHIMABUKURO, will bring joy to the world this upcoming 2021 Holiday Season by delivering a special gift for all with the debut of his highly anticipated holiday show, JAKE SHIMABUKURO – CHRISTMAS IN HAWAII.

    “With only four strings, Jake is a humble master whose mission is to connect and inspire people. Whether one on one or in front of an audience of thousands, Jake shares a deep emotional connection with the listener that is open, magical and transcendent. Jake’s genuine love for people, the spirit of Holidays and his beloved home of Hawaii are at the forefront of JAKE SHIMABUKURO – CHRISTMAS IN HAWAII. It will be a warm welcome of merriment and wonder for the season.”

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