So many great experiences start as a gift from my husband; the first one being the sewing machine he got me three years ago, that started my garment sewing obsession. I had off-handedly mentioned to Matt that I was interested in learning how to play the ukulele. One reason was that two of my all time favorite bands have ukulele in them: Man Man and the Magnetic Fields. The other was that I had heard that it’s a good instrument to learn as an adult beginner. Last year for my birthday, he surprised me with a ukulele and a gift certificate towards a class at Dusty Strings.
I have always been a huge music lover. Growing up, my parents had a pretty impressive record collection and stereo system and music was aways playing in the house. My dad dabbled in violin and I just found out my aunt Phoebe played ukulele as well. My sister Virginia is the true musician in the family and has been playing guitar since she was a teenager, has been in several bands, has a beautiful voice and continues to write songs and perform.
As for me, I played flute for a while when I was a kid. I remember having one recital. I sang in the junior choir at my church and jazz choir my freshman year of high school, so at one point I had known how to read music. In my twenties, my friends were all in bands and I would go to their shows and photograph them playing. One of my drummer friends even gave me drum lessons for a few months one Summer. That was short-lived when my neighbors decided to egg my house one night when I was practicing. The point is, I love music, but have always been more of a patron than a participant. I was excited to see if this would be something I could do and would enjoy. After perusing the classes at Dusty Strings, I decided to take an eight week Ukulele Fun!-damentals class with instructor Sunga Rose.
The music school at Dusty Strings is a cool environment in and of itself. Up until that point, music schools were pretty foreign to me. The art building at UW, where I attended classes to get my photo degree, was right across from the Music school. I could hear students rehearsing as I went to class, but I never once set foot in there. So when I showed up for my first ukulele class, I was excited and nervous all at the same time. While waiting for class, I read about the history of Dusty Strings. It was started by husband and wife Ray and Sue Mooers in 1978 and they started out making hammered dulcimers in the basement of their Ravenna home. Over 30 years later, the business has grown to include other acoustic stringed instruments (harps, mandolins, banjos, guitars and of course, ukuleles), a school, a building shop, and a repair shop. It’s a Fremont institution.
When the class started, I continued to feel a bit out of my element at first. Most of the people in my class had way more music experience than I did. All my nervousness and fears quickly melted away though, when Sunga’s patient and cheery attitude quickly set a tone of warmth and friendliness. If someone messed up or made a mistake, we weren’t made to feel bad, we all just laughed and tried again. Sunga has been such a great teacher and I have made some new friends in my classmates. I even got to practice on a classmate’s houseboat one night! I am so glad I chose her class. If I had ended up with any other teacher, this could have been a completely different experience and I may not have continued. Sunga really did make it fun, so I looked forward to class each week.
The end of the eight weeks culminated in a recital of all of her students (she teaches private lessons and classes at South Seattle Community College as well). Sunga’s Fun!-damentals students got to perform first and we played two songs: Acadian Lullaby and All Night Long. Matt took video with my phone and I have to say that the better performance was Acadian Lullaby, so that is what I will share with you. If you really want to see All Night Long, it’s here. I was little nervous at the recital, but luckily it was pretty casual. Plus, I was playing in a big group, so you wouldn’t have been able to hear me make a mistake anyway!
I am so glad I had this experience. As I have seen myself improve, it has given me such a huge sense of accomplishment. I loved Ukulele Fun!-damentals so much that when it was over, I immediately signed up for another eight weeks of Ukulele Fun!-damentals 2. I’m already halfway through it! I feel like I am learning so much and that I will have such a good foundation to build on from here. Sunga takes the summer off from teaching, but in the Fall offers an Ensemble class, so that is what I will probably jump into next. I also have a huge list of songs I want to learn and am currently teaching myself a Man Man song. If I practice hard enough, maybe I can do a solo at one of the next recitals! 😉