From California to New Zealand; from Ireland to Isreal, you will find lovers of ukulele! Social media is filled with groups and communities of uke players from all over the world and by means of these different online platforms we ukulele players become familiar with one another and have access to all things ukulele.
In my work as ukulele teacher, I meet so many people! I LOVE hearing their story! Who are you? Where are you from? What makes you the person you are? And.... What brought you here to my ukulele class? To get this conversation going with my own story.
My inspiration began with a name: Johnny Ukulele. I remember playing in the tall grass next to his home when I was very young.
Johnny Ukulele, Ukuele virtuoso
It wasn't his kindness, or his winning smile that captured my heart. IT WAS HIS NAME! I'm not even joking. Every time I heard his name, my imagination soared and I thought to myself, "How did he get that name?" Years later I would learn the answer to that question. But for the sake of topic I will say this: His name made an impression on a very young Hoku Bray because today ukulele is my M.O. (mode of operation. [for those of you who don't use urban slang])!
I learned to play ukulele in the Summer of 1972. It was one of those days when there was nothing to do. The day was odd. A beautiful summer day, a quiet pool in the backyard and no one to play with. It was so quite and my mother was taking an afternoon siesta. I was bored. It was at this most boring moment that I had the idea to play Mom's ukulele. Brilliant! I picked up my mother's ukulele, which was leaning against a wall in the living room and then took it into her to ask her to show me how to play. She woke up and taught me a Hawaiian vamp in the key of C. What I learned in those 15 minutes lasted me a lifetime! Little did I know that I would have the privilege of sharing that vamp with thousands of individuals wanting to learn to play the ukulele! The memory of Kapu Bray keeps the love of uke in my heart.
Above: Bill Tapia performing at the Southern California Ukulele Festival.
There is Someone else who must be mentioned here: Bill Tapia. Those of you who knew him understand why. Bill Tapia was always available. Available for a phone call, a music lesson, a visit, a story, performing, you name it! 102-years-old and he didn't miss a beat. One day while meeting with him for a ukulele lesson, he stopped playing....just stopped and took a moment to think and then said to me, "You better stop messing around and take this serious, your a good player!" Thank you uncle Bill, you inspire me to this very day!
Do you play uke? What inspired you to play? Please share your story by commenting!