So often, I seem to have an easier time focusing on and sharing the negative events of my life, conveniently forgetting the many wonders I experience over the course of a single day.
One such phenomenon that I would like to take a moment to celebrate is the growing number of women in my community—immediate, long distance, and virtual—who are bringing a ukulele into their lives!
I would also like to take a moment to pay homage to my ukulele. I can still remember when first we met. I was visiting a friend from my cohort at Prescott in the middle of a long trip that began in Gustavus, Alaska and was slated to end in Prescott, Arizona.
I owe many thanks to the musicians who first introduced me to the ukulele. This was one of those watershed moments in the life of marieke. We are so often asked to write corny essays for jobs and academic programs, writing contrived responses to questions about formative moments that led us to whatever subject or field we wish to pursue at a higher level. I tend to struggle with those essays because so much of the shaping of me has happened in subtle, gradual moments along a spectrum. Kind of nebulous, to be honest.
I am ever grateful that I finally made a case for myself to attend the Fishtrap Writing Conference in Oregon a couple of summers ago. At this conference were two musicians—Kate Power and Steve Einhorn. Kate and Steve had managed a music store called “Artichoke” in Portland, Oregon for decades. When they retired, they contacted a number of ukulele companies and requested a donation of about 30 half size ukuleles they could pack into a large Rubbermaid so they could travel around the country leading “Uke and Sing” workshops.
On a fateful afternoon in July of 2011, I attended one such workshop, held a tiny ukulele close to my chest, and discovered the perfect-sized instrument for me. Watershed moment if I ever experienced one!
I asked the musicians what kind of ukulele they recommended. Their instruments were GORGEOUS!
“What kind of ukulele do you have,” I asked Steve?
“A mya-moe. They are amazing ukuleles. They are expensive but totally worth it!”
And with that, the dye was cast.
My fate sealed.
I flew back to Alaska, found the mya-moe website, and placed an order. Then began the longest three month wait of my life (or at least that I can remember. I am sure waiting for my birthday when I was five was equally painful).
So when I stepped out of my friend’s car and was instantly greeted by two smiling faces, Char and Gordon Mayer, ukulele makers extraordinaires! In her hand, Char held a leather-bound case, which she handed to me.
“Congratulations!” she told me, and I knew this would be another pivotal member.
We walked inside the foyer of a small hotel.
They opened the case and handed me the ukulele. Photos were taken. I was immediately smitten. Love at first ukulele sight.
I asked it they would play something on it. Gordon strummed while Char sang in a beautiful voice, and my love grew by leaps and bounds with just those few chords and notes floating around the small space.
I was determined to become a ukulele player!
Despite my history of fleeting enthusiasm to learn many different instrument, the ukulele seems to be here to stay. It feels like a part of me, and I begin to feel like something is missing when I go for any length of time without playing my uke and singing along to whatever melody wants to come out and be heard.
For those who are reading this and remembering instruments they were equally determined to play but have set aside for some reason or another, do not fret! I have an unreasonably large collection of instruments that I have picked up at one time or another, determined to learn, and then set aside. I pick up my banjo every couple of years, learn the same 4-5 chords, and set it down once more. I had little luck with the fiddle. My pianos sit quietly at my parents’ house, too large to keep up with my frequent moving schedule these past few years.
All you need is to find the instrument that speaks to you, the one that will become like an extension of your being.
For me, this instrument is the ukulele.
And maybe, just maybe, a uke might be for you, too!