Why the ukulele is awesome, a manifesto by Stacie Levy Norris
When asked how many ukulele‘s I have in my apartment, I’ll very proudly say 4, for now. What is it about this instrument that I love so much?? Why is it so amazing??
Interestingly enough, I didn’t wake up one morning and say “I’m going to become a professional ukulele player.“ In fact, before I became a Music Together teacher, I had never touched a ukulele in my life. To me, it was just another string instrument . I thought it was too hard to learn and would just give me painstakingly long hours of practice and callouses on my fingers.
That changed after the director I was working for (when I was just a teacher and not a licensed director myself) gave me a phone call and suggested I learn an instrument that I could use in my classes . She told me that the families in my classes would love it, and that it would be easy to learn. At the time, I just did a big “harrumph:” after I hung up my phone. I was a singer, and with the exception of piano, I didn’t see any reason why I would need to learn anything else.
Then there was that fateful day that I walked into Sam Ash in midtown. I had been looking for some piano music and then I came across “the wall”. (If any of you have ever been to this Sam Ash in NYC, you would know what I am talking about.) This amazing spot in the store was covered from top to bottom with adorable, colorful, quirky ukuleles.
As I stared at the wall in awe, my eyes came across a very simple, small, red soprano ukulele. Compared to all the other ukuleles on the wall, it wasn’t that impressive, but it was RED, and I love red. (I love other colors too, but show me a red dress, red shoes, red lipstick, I guarantee I’ll stop by your store to shop.)
Cautiously, I picked up this amazing tiny instrument. I strummed it once, and though the sound was jarring to me at the time, I kinda liked it! I also liked the feeling of plucking the strings. Once I held that marvelous red stringed instrument in my hands, that was it for me. I was officially hooked!
Since that fateful day, I have learned tons of other chords on the ukulele and tons of songs too. I’ve played ukulele at children’s birthday parties, always bring it and play at least 2 songs on it in my Music Together classes, and even played my baritone during a concert I did at my Alma Mater.
So why is this instrument so amazing??? In 10 seconds you can learn your first chord, in a week you can learn 3 (if you practice really hard), and in a month, you can fully play though your first song. It’s just the way the instrument is built. It’s tinier and less heavy than a guitar, it can be plugged into an amp, and you can pick any color/pattern you want.
If you give yourself the time and patience necessary, you can actually teach yourself the instrument on your own! Or, if you want to experience the joy of learning with others, put a group together and start your own ukulele learning circle. (Or in these days, Ukulele ZOOM circle or Ukulele learning pod.) The other option is hiring a teacher to do lessons with you.
Either way you do it, the ukulele is bound to bring joy and smiles into your life. And if you are lucky, it can bring joy to others as well.
-Stacie Levy Norris
Director- Music Together