Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The year is coming to an end and I am thinking about my ukulele experiences. Mostly about the after school club at AMS and the class I now teach. It is amazing to me that there are over 80 kids interested in the ukulele. And it is a pleasure to teach a class each day. It is also a lot of work. I have to get my own ukulele skills up.

I am now reading music for the ukulele fretboard. Who would have thought that I would be able to do that. It is simple right now, but I can read the key of C and G. Now I have to move up the neck and do it in more places. Isn't that the way the ukulele is. Move up the neck.

The workshops this year have been challenging and helpful and now I am thinking about where do I take my own playing. I need more time to play (don't we all) and I have to still teach and do the rest of my life. It means that 2010 will be another interesting year.

The star of the after school ukulele group is Karsten. He is pretty much self taught and has the ability to hear and play. He has been playing for a year and a half and is in the 8th grade this year. Here is a video I did at school with him around Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday times

Well, got back from a wonderful week in Pahala with Keoki Kahumoku Ohana Hawaiian Music and Lifestyle workshop and jumped right back into school. Then jumped into grades and am now winding down to the 2 week holiday vacation. Wheeww!

The Pahala workshop was great fun. So many folks to play ukulele with, to learn from and with and some awesome teachers. Herb keeps challenging me, in a very good way. Now I am working on some music without tab. Yikes! I can actually do some of this.

Also had a chance to work with Moses Kamai again on the song we started last year in Herb's advanced ukulele class. Moses has the computer skills to get it all scored out. We were both struggling with the timing, as it is my weakness so I couldn't figure out what we were missing. Turns out that both of us were off one beat. The melody starts on the second beat. Then it all started to come together.

Working with Brad was really awesome. I hope he does some more videos. He is a natural teacher. Seems I am going to be learning some video skills and some music skills... who has time for a job?!?!

This coming Friday Susan and I will head up to San Rafael and UFO's Christmas shindig.

Here are a few pictures from the workshop. Well, When I figure out how to get the pictures down here I will add some more.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Video Lesson With Brad - Surf

Aloha. I am in Hawai'i, the Ka'u district of the island of Hawai'i at the Kahamoku Hawaiian Music and Lifestyle Workshop. I am learning more ukulele and meeting some great young players. One of these players is Brad Bordessa who has his own blog on the 'ukulele You can find a lot of information there on the playing.

Today I have a rough video (my video and editing skills are primitive) to share with you. It is my way of communicating with my students at home while I am at the workshop. I hope you all enjoy.

A BIG MAHALO to Brad for his time and input into this lesson.

Friday, November 20, 2009

'Ukulele on KQED California report

I forgot to share this link. Hope I do it right. Not sure.

To go to the site, click the title of this entry.

A time of Thanksgiving

Ahhhh! A well earned week off with the Thanksgiving Holiday. One of the best ideas from the bargaining team I was on. Then, a week at Keoki Kahumoku's Hawaiian Music and Lifestyle workshop. (

This last week we had another 'ukulele club meeting. I think we had about 50. They divided into groups and started jamming on some songs. Had about 4 groups. Karsten had a large group and was in heaven playing my Lehua tenor that I recently outfitted with a pickup. I also recently picked up 2 practice amps for $10 each off craigslist. Karsten really enjoyed playing my uke with the amp and had all the kids around him enthralled. He was showing them something. I was working with some kids who are just learning some chords and wanted to learn Island Style.

On Wednesday I did a video of Karsten playing. I will do some editing of it and post it at a later date. It is about 10 minutes long. He is getting better and better. A couple of the science teachers were commenting on how nice it is to hear and see all the 'ukuleles on campus and how good Karsten is. Let's me know that I am doing the right thing.

I will try to post more later. It has been a long week with parent/teacher conferences and lesson planning for a sub the week after Thanksgiving.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Uke class and club

Well the first quarter is over and I have taught 24 students the basics of playing the ukulele. They did not want to rotate to their next elective so I may start with a lunch time jam for the alums of the class.

They learned the basic C scale and how to read simple musical notes. I decided not to teach them to read tabulature. They learned the basic chord progressions for G, C and F as well as some in A (they wanted to learn Drop, Baby Drop so I used Aldreine's video from Ukulele Underground). I also taught them the picking part and they did really well.

This next group of 26 may be a bit more challenging but I think they will get into the groove in the next week. It is always a challenge when they first start. It is different and new.

I decided to put a pickup into my Lehua tenor that I use at school as I found that when I used a small practice amp they would stay together better as far as beat and tempo. So now I can plug in my Po Mahina and the Lehua. All I have to do now is restring the Lehua with the high G, though I am still hesitant, not sure why.

The Ukulele Club after school is going strong. We had about 60+ at the last meeting. We were competing with an after school volleyball game against the other middle school in the district. The kids who don't play are learning basic chords and strum. I am going to try to get those who do play to bring in some of their music and let them use my Lehua, plugged in, to jam together. My challenge is to keep those who play already engaged in the club so that as students learn more they can jam and play together. It is a large group and they are all pretty enthusiastic. Since I am doing the Club every other week there are a number of kids who come by on the off Tuesday with their ukuleles wanting to come and play. Sometimes I have a few of them hang out in my room and do minor repairs to tuning pegs or restring an instrument. They are funny these kids. They think that doing these things is magical.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Benefit Concert

Things are happening this coming week. Derick Sebastian, a wonderful uke player from Maui, is giving a benefit concert for the AMS 'Ukulele club on Wednesday, October 7 @ 6 pm. It will be at Alvarado Middle School in Union City - $3 for students and families, $5 all other. No one turned away for lack of funds. In addition, Rick Rasay and his local group Garden Island Blend will also be performing. It should be fun. I hope to get at least 100 folks to come. Derick is an inspirational type of player, having started playing 'ukulele while in middle school. I am looking forward to hearing again.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

AMS 'Ukulele Club First Meeting 09-10

This afternoon was the first meeting of the Alvarado Middle School 'Ukulele for this year. Last year about 35 students came and about 15 stuck with it throughout the year. This year we had 83 students show up for the first meeting. We had a hint that it was going to be big because last week we had 83 sign up for the club. Not everyone who signed up in advance came and lots who had not signed up did come.

What we are going to try to do is create 3 or four groups within the group. I say we including 2 other teachers at school, Kim and Marcella, who play a little 'ukulele and can get kids started on the learning. We will try to have a group of students who will jam together, a group of advanced beginners and then one or two groups of beginners. Hopefully we will get the beginners caught up quickly.

I am still in amazement that 83 students actually came to the club.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A new school year !

Aloha to all,
The new school year has started and I am getting in the swing of things. The exciting part of this school year is that I am teaching Beginning Ukulele on what we call the 6th grade activity wheel. One period a day (50 minutes) I will teach 25-30 6th graders ukulele for about 10 weeks. Then I get a new set of students. Thanks to Elaine deMan of Kani-ka-pila Klips and Louis at Ohana ukulele I was able to purchase 30 Ohana soprano ukuleles. Many thanks for all your help in getting that done.

In addition to the class I am going to continue to do the afterschool ukulele club on Tuesdays. I have had a number of students want to be in the ukulele class but they are not 6th graders. There are also a number of students who know how to play the ukulele and have said they will come to the club. I am excited about all the ukulele that is going on at school.

I am also grateful that the Principal and Assistant Principals are supportive of my efforts, though there is no money for any of this. It is nice to walk around campus and hear students playing the ukulele.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Summertime and the living is ...

Well, school is out and am back from 2 weeks + in Hawaii. Spent just over one week on Maui at Napili playing ukulele all day. What made it special was I got my new ukulele on Sunday the 21 at the start of the workshop. It is beautiful koa wood, made by Dennis Lake and sounds very sweet. He did a couple of things for me, like more room at the top of the neck so I don't run into the tuning pegs and making the neck width a little narrower than usual. All in all I am very pleased.

I have also received 30 ukuleles for the class I will be teaching this year at school. Thanks to Elaine deMan and Louis of Ohana ukuleles. I know the kids will enjoy them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Kids and the Beatles

Two of the boys in the ukulele club at Alvarado Middle School are continuing to amaze me with their natural ability. Yesterday, Karsten played "Gently Weeps" ala Jake from start to finish. He figured it out on his own. I am going to try to get a video of him playing it. Aaron also is working on "Yesterday". I am amazed at what these boys can do with the ukulele. At this point I can only guide them and share with them tips that I have learned. They do a lot by ear.

Another student, Andrew has so much drive and passion that he wants to tackle music that is challenging. He is a little impatient but has the drive to learn so I keep encouraging him.

I am having such a good time with the kids and they really want to be in the ukulele class I am teaching next year. However, my class will be for 6th graders and none of these students will be able to take the class.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Derick Sebastian visits AMS

Yesterday afternoon Derick Sebastian came by after school to meet with the ukulele club here at Alvarado Middle school. We had a small group but it worked out well. Derick was wonderful with the students and they seemed to enjoy listening to him play and learning from him some techniques in playing.

He showed them a picking pattern that the students caught on to pretty quickly. A few of the students played a little for him as well and he was helpful and encouraging.

Today Derick is at the Santa Cruz Ukulele Club and I will not be able to attend because we have Open House tonight. Derick will be at Mike DeSilva's on Saturday in Berkeley and the Northern California Ukulele Festival on Sunday at the Hayward Adult School. Check it out, he is talented young man with lots of Aloha.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Herb's lesson and workshop

Yesterday, in Berkeley I was privileged to take a private lesson with Herb Ohta Jr. He is an awesome teacher, patient with a good sense of humor. We worked on Pua Olena which is a beautiful song. I have something to work and and there is a lot of room to add, embelish, work with the song. The workshop was helpful in getting some perspective and ideas for doing just that.

Tomorrow Herb will be coming to the middle school I teach at for a workshop with the ukulele club at my school. The kids are getting jazzed about his visit. It should be a fun day for all.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ukulele class next year?

The planning for next year has begun at school. The powers that be have tentatively scheduled me to teach on section of Ukulele as an elective for 6th graders next year. I am now looking into getting 30 ukuleles for the possible class and thinking about how to teach and manage the class. It would be fun to actually teach a class for students, everyday. I would probably keep the ukuleles in the classroom since we meet everyday.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

AMS ukulele club

Three of the guys in the ukulele club have been working on the Canon in D. They worked out the picking, chords and arrangement for the 3 ukuleles. The video quality isn't great but the sound is true.

The club is going well with about 10 students coming each week. It seems that there are always new students interested in joining. I am sure that this next week will see a renewed interest as this video was played on our schools weekly "video news".

As for my personal playing it looks like the Royal Hawaiian Ukulele Band, which practices on Monday nights at the Templebar in Berkeley, is heading to the Ukulele Festival in Hawaii in July. I hope to get more info soon. Until then we will be at the Northern California Ukulele Festival in Hayward at the end of April.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Uke Club this week

The students are working hard. Two students have been practicing, actually three but one of them was not there yesterday. The boys worked hard to get it right.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

AMS Ukulele club

Yesterday we had another small group, less than 10, but they were very interested in playing, learning and practicing. I told them that I was going to get a web page up for the club and we talked about some pages where you can get some lessons on-line. Ukulele Underground and Live 'Ukulele are two pretty good sites. I know there are more out there.

Three of the students stayed a little later than usual as they were working out Canon in D by Pachbell. They were working out chords, strumming and picking for each of them and then went to Garage Band on the computer to record their sound. They were having a great time. We are going to try to video tape them for the weekly AMS video news at school. Should be fun. I will figure out how to download their recording for this blog.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Another AMS uke club meeting

Well, the group was small today. Other activities such as wrestling and homework and household chores to do. Had 4 students today and they jammed together. Karsten is getting pretty good, obviously practicing a lot. The others are doing well also. They will all surpass me at some point in the not to distant future. Karsten is working on Herb's Ka'anapili Sunset and doing pretty well. He heard Herb play when he came to the club.

As for me I am trying to find time to work on some arpeggio's and work on "Sweet Pahala Mist" started in Pahala this December in Herb's class. I have a collaborator, Moses, in D.C. There is a little more work to do but the piece is coming along nicely. It is fun to do.

I have also gotten back to the Templebar and the Royal Hawaiian Ukulele Band. Since I was gone in December and fighting of a cold for most of January I missed a lot of time. But I am back again and enjoy the playing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Templebar 1/26

Got to the Templebar tonight for the first time in a couple of months. Working on several new songs that I will have to practice. Saw Becca, Peter, Phil, Larry, Aunty Peggy, Aunty Mary, and Uncle Kem and Aunty Roz. It was nice to be back, and now I have to practice.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Last week was special in many ways

On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, in addition to the inauguration of Barack Obama as our President, Herb Ohta Jr. came to the ukulele club at Alvarado Middle School in Union City. It was a treat for all of us. Students were attentive and impressed with Herb. He taught them a couple of arpeggios and talked about playing and practicing. Herb also played a couple of songs for the students.