On a chilly wet spring evening, I fought the drizzle and the descending darkness to get to a church near the bust stop. Jamaica Plain, or JP for short, was dead quiet, save those going into the famous ice cream shop.
I intercepted a young woman in a fluffy pink dress carrying what looked like a ukulele case. Concerned that I might have missed the event entirely, I asked if Bryan Tolentino was still inside. She nodded and pointed at the entrance to the First Baptist Church on Centre Street.
Music education is one of the most expensive investments in time and resource. It requires a serious commitment to reap the benefits of individual music lessons taken over a long period of time (measured in years not months or weeks). Is there another way to acquire musical skills and knowledge?
Who is a non-beginner? Someone who is comfortable with his instrument. Ukulele players , often self-taught or have taken a few beginner workshops, are non-beginners if they already know how to tune, play the basic chords from memory (C, F, G7, Am, C7) and strum instinctively. They know how to read a chord diagram. They know how to look at a song sheet and finger the chords indicated with the lyrics.
What would a “ukulele for the non-beginner / busy adult” course include?
The word “jam” conjures up images of people playing music together, on different instruments in a frenzy. As ukuleles come in different sizes, they naturally sound different. Often there are complementary instruments such as the cajon, bass guitar, tambourine, kazoo, harmonica, and violin. The word “jam” also sounds loud rather than soft but it doesn’t have to be. Coining the words “jam session” makes it sound more sophisticated than the technical description: a group play and sing along. It’s not karaoke, because it’s not about people taking turns singing on the microphone, rather, everyone plays and sings together. As you may expect, not all jam sessions are the same.
It’s a mouthful, but every single word is significant. Today is the official summer solstice in 2018, otherwise known as the longest day of the year. Yesterday, being the Wednesday that my ukulele group meets each week, we gave our first public performance for the senior residents and staff members of a nearby building. Sunset is that magical time when you know the deadline of darkness is approaching, and everything must get done by then. To make it participative, we called our gig a singalong so the audience would be encouraged to join us in the singing. Standish Village is an award-winning assisted senior living residence, housed in a historic landmark building (no. 24 in this document), in Historic Lower Mills, just a short walk from Walter Baker Artists Lofts where we regularly meet to jam (or rehearse).
What’s noteworthy? One person had just learned how to play the ukulele three weeks ago in my crash course, four others had never performed on the ukulele before, and it was our first performance as a group.
The first question anybody asks to join the ukulele community is how to get hold of a ukulele. They come in all sizes and shapes: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. For adults, I’d recommend a concert size. For children, I’d say soprano size.
Announcing the first beginning ukulele workshop for the general public.
Where: Boston, Massachusetts — near the Milton T (red-line) station in Historic Lower Mills.
When: Wed 7th Feb 2018 at 7 pm. Please register to get a seat!
Attending the one day writing workshop causes one to reflect about writing. But it’s not an excuse not to write.
One thing the Saturday writing workshop and the three-day summer writing workshop did for me was pause for reflection. The word for it is metacognition or metacognitive analysis. In other words, you think about what you’re doing.
We thought about writing. Why did we write? Why did we want to write? What did we hope to get out of writing?
I think of it as pausing to smell the flowers that you see before they wilt. Take a moment to look around you and admire the beauty. How often do we stop doing what we’re doing to reflect and think about what we’re doing? Or notice what’s around us?
I am always thinking about my purpose for writing and my audience. I don’t write just to write, waste paper and time, and thereby waste some reader’s attention to what I wrote. I think about topics that are worth writing about.
Sometimes writing is an obligation. For instance, I had some time to kill while waiting for dinner the other day. I checked my blog traffic and noticed a decline in activity of late. I felt obliged to write, for continuity sake. I whipped out a short blog post very quickly, something I had always wanted to write about but didn’t have time. I let it brew, fester, and ferment until I had time and the inclination to write it.
I write to remember. “Bookmark this idea!” Usually it’s more like, “don’t forget this moment” or “please don’t forget this experience.”
I write to promote. Concerts require promotion. An announcement is not an invitation. An announcement informs, but an invitation has to do more than inform. The writing has to attract and persuade. It has to be easily found by search engines used by those who are looking for concerts.
I write to thank. Instead of a thank you card or a thank you gift, I write a piece to make my appreciation personal.
I write to practise writing, and often, to get started. It takes practise to write well. A blog is writing that gets published instantly. It is the fastest way to get a reaction and to get found. When I blog, I feel like I’m on stage, and the world is my audience.
I write to process emotions or decisions. When structuring to write, I am also analysing the situation. What is important? What comes first? What follows next? What are my options? What do I want? What should I do? What is it that I’m burdened with? Why?
Enough about writing.
Writing about writing can easily throw me into the trap of thinking about thinking, writing about writing, and never quite do what I have to do.