Sunday, January 15, 2023

Ukulele Heroes: Deborah Guarnieri

Central New York instructor and innovator Deborah Guarnieri has developed adaptive technologies to allow people with upper limb disabilities to play the ukulele.


"With the use of accoutrements like hub straps, waist straps, finger splints and other accessories, the Ukulele Support System has given people of all ages around the world the ability to play the ukulele. And all the parts she uses to modify the ukuleles are readily available to anyone, Guarneiri added.

Her Ukulele Support System is now under the umbrella of the Ukulele Kids Club of America and Guarneiri has created her own local CLUES Ukulele Club that meets at the Canastota and Oneida public libraries that help in her mission. CLUES is an acronym for Canastota Library Ukulele Extraordinary Strummers."

Here is Deb being interviewed on WSYR's Bridge Street, demonstrating several of her inventions. For more background and videos, here's an interview on WXXI from 2019. Follow the work that Deb, local club members, and other heroes around the world do to make the ukulele accessible on the Ukulele Support System for upper limb disabilities Facebook Page.

Saturday, January 07, 2023

The Okee Dokee Brothers are Truly Okee Dokee

Today a student asked to work on a song I wasn't familiar with. The song is "If You Want a Song," by the Okee Dokee Brothers. Now, I'd heard of this duo before and liked their music a lot, but I'd forgotten about them. 

The aforementioned (and Grammy-winning) "brothers" are Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing, and are based in Minnesota. Together, they write and perform American-roots style, kid-and-parent friendly songs.

What makes them Okee Dokee in my book is that they not only feature the occasional uke in their songs (or sing about them–see below), but that they offer free download files of their lyrics and chords.

Check out the video of the song my student requested and watch for a cameo by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer!

And for your winter strumming pleasure, here is the very charming "Ukulele in a Snowstorm."

Visit the Okee Dokee Brothers Website

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Support Ukraine Relief and Get a Chance to Win This 3-D Printed Uke

Rigk Sauer makes the terrific and iconic Uke Solid. Now he's designed the Ukralele: a 3-D printed sopranino that he's raffling off to support relief efforts in Ukraine.

Sez Rigk:
You could win this 3D printed electric ukulele (sopranino) by donating to the victims of the Ukraine War. For every 10 € you send to paypal until the end of October 2022, you will receive a ticket for the drawing. All proceeds from this action will be donated to the "Emergency Aid Ukraine" organization "Aktion Deutschland Hilft". Best of luck!

Here's a link to the donation/entry page. There are links for production videos that are pretty cool!  Link

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Lil' Rev Needs Our Help

Our dear friend, the wonderful Marc Revenson, aka Lil' Rev, needs our help. He's scheduled for some dire oral surgery and his insurance will cover only a portion of the total. Marc is a longstanding evangelist for the ukulele and roots music. You may even have a book or two of his in your library or some of his CDs.

Please join me in contributing to the GoFundMe account that ukulele superheroes Marcy Marxer, Cathy Fink, and Ben Hassenger have set up. 

Complete details on the GoFundMe page. Here's the link.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Uke Heads, Unite!


See that? That's my Uke Head. 

I'm proud and honored to be a volunteer mentor for the James Hill Ukulele Initiative (JHUI). James is about to launch a new project called Uke Heads, and he gave us a sneak peek over the last few weeks. 

Uke Heads is an innovative project–the first of its kind so far as I know–where an artist (James) is recording an album with the active participation of a community of player/contributors. There have been a lot of crowd-based recordings during the pandemic, but this project is different in that participating as a Uke Head is essentially part of crowd-funding the album and supporting the artist. And participating comes with a number of benefits like online workshops with James, exclusive merch, and the opportunity to record on future singles.

There are 1879 unique Uke Head avatars which are themselves NFTs. (Welcome to blockchain, ukers!) Ukulele geeks will immediately grok why there are 1879. (Which, by the way, is a swell line of clothing you can check out here.

Learn more about the Uke Heads project at the official site, here.

James also discusses the project on his Uketropolis Podcast in this episode.

And here are link to three Q&A sessions James had live on YouTube.

Finally, while becoming a Uke Head isn't free ($189.70 – notice the theme?), James has made 100 available free to deserving players. Info here.

So, which Uke Head are you?

Thursday, March 17, 2022

"When St Paddy's Falls on Purim"

"You Purim for me, and I'll Purim for you..."

This ditty is by Brigid Kaelin and Gregory Maupin. Here's a little background on the song. Link

But sure and there's more! Brigid has posted the sheet music for free! (That makes here Saint Brigid in my book). Link to Music.

Happy Both Days to everyone who celebrates. And a big Tip O' the Hamantash to my good friend Adam Hanin for pointing us to this pot of gold.


Tuesday, February 01, 2022

W. E. B. Du Bois, Ukulele Patron

In honor of Black History Month, here is a 1921 letter we recently discovered from Yolande Du Bois to her father, American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist and author W. E. B. Du Bois, thanking him for sending her money to buy a ukulele. 
“Thanks ever so much for the money for the Ukelele (sic). I went straight down-town the next Saturday and bought it. It is a ‘banjo Ukelele,’ and it’s very pretty. It is made of light-colored maple highly polished and trimmed in black. I can play two pieces on it.”

She goes on on to tell her father that she made the dean’s list at Fisk. 

Yolande Du Bois was involved in the Harlem Renaissance, and later had a career as an educator in Baltimore. 

And to her father Dr. Du Bois' many accolades, we humbly add "ukulele patron."

Du Bois, Yolande. Letter from Yolande Du Bois to W. E. B. Du Bois, March 16, 1921. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries. 

All rights for this document are held by the David Graham Du Bois Trust.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Happy New Year!


A lot of folks have been producing ukulele ensemble videos during the Pandemic, but for me the is the most joyous and infectious one I've seen. Makes me want to fly down to Brazil to hang out with my friend Vinícius Vivas

Also featured in the video are Aline Kelly and Gracie Terzian

Happy Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 13, 2021

PlayStation Ukulele

Denis Moynihan made this uke out of an old PlayStation unit back in September. He says "It's not the greatest sounding acoustically but works very well when plugged in." I'll update if I can get a video or audio recording. Link 

(Thanks, Denis!)

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

UKULELE '21 | Craig Robertson

Erstwhile Ukulelia editor and bon vivant Craig Robertson has a new album of ukulele music out. 

Sez Craig:
The ukulele is a great instrument, it is versatile and lends itself to many different types and styles of music. Here are brand new recordings of some of my earlier songs that were composed on the ukulele.

All four sizes of ukuleles, soprano, concert, tenor and baritone, were used on this album. A PDF of all the chords and lyrics to the songs will be sent to you free when you purchase the album. The chord charts for all the songs were done by Ukulele George.
(And btw, look for a swell comprehensive compendium of ukulele chords to be published by Ukulele George in the coming months...)

Buy and download your copy at this link:

UKULELE '21 | Craig Robertson

Friday, October 29, 2021

Farewell Fred Fallin

We learned this week of the passing of Fred Fallin. If you've been around the uke world for a while, you no doubt bumped into Fred. A sweet man, lovely musician, and captivating chronicler of ukulele and Tin Pan Alley history. 

Here's a 1996 profile of Fred from the history page of his beloved Pullman neighborhood of Chicago. For readers who weren't playing back then, this was beginning of the (current) Third Wave of ukulele popularity, when a seeming handful of Mainland eccentrics played, and it was players like Fred who had lovingly kept the pilot light on for us.

Above is a photo from Catfish Carl's Closet (still extant!), a site hosting photos from the legendary Uke Fest West of 2004. We picked this photo for a couple of reasons. First, this image is from a workshop that Uncle Bill Tapia (then just a youthful 96) gave at the Fest. Fred was playing the role of interlocutor. We were fortunate to have been in the room for this, so this would have been the first time we met both Tappy and Fred. 

Mahalo, Fred. See you down the road. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Jake Needs No Introduction

We found it worth noting that in his article on the online education company MasterClass, The New Yorker author Tad Friend understood that Jake Shimabukuro needed no introduction:
"The site has recently begun to attract instructors, including Amy Tan, Elaine Welteroth, Jake Shimabukuro, and Malala Yousafzai, who were MasterClass subscribers before they taught their classes."
It's remarkable that Jake has reached the point of recognition at which no "ukulele player," or "ukulele superstar" appellation is needed. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Playing for Afghan Refugees

An unnamed U.S. Airforce Airman brought out his ukulele to entertain children and adults from Afghanistan at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. I wonder what he played. Link

If anyone runs across the name of this Airman, please send a comment and I'll post it.

Photo Credit: Lt. Col. William Powell
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