Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rhan Wilson Ukulele University

At a recent Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz meeting notices of a "Ukulele University" were placed on the tables. The UU creator was Rhan Wilson, also the creator/director of "An Altared Christmas", which is a seasonal hit production. It explores Christmas music using the ethereal minor keys. The production is outstanding. I have met Rhan at Bocci's several times and even attended one rhythm class with about 10 other students using African drums. Rhan has also performed at the club with several groups.

The basic concept is to get several people together and learn the basics of playing and performing music with others. Much of the class focuses on getting the "feel" of the music. So often in ukulele clubs we perform a strum that is devoid of the rhythm of the original composition. We also work on giving musical cues that help others know of changes as we move through the music. We have been working primarily with I-IV-V arrangements, adding some intros and fingerpicking some riffs.

Although it is called Ukulele University, we have a drummer, bass player, guitarist, and about 7 ukulele players. Rhan asks us all to try to create a bit of a different sound. Play chords up the neck and vary strums to give more depth to each song. There is also discussion on how to vary the musical dynamics to shift focus or to let the main performer to hold the center of attention.

The class is for 10 consecutive weeks. It takes me an hour each way but I would like to take my ukulele playing up a notch. Also, I enjoy playing my ukulele each day (since I work from home) but don't have much experience really playing with others beyond the normal club strum.

Most of my classmates, are from the UCSC and I have talked to or seen half of them at the club. The great thing about ukulele players and musicians in general is their fun-loving nature. Also, Santa Cruz and our leader Rhan have the weirdness factor that adds to the spice of life. There is a locally famous bumper sticker that reads, "Keep Santa Cruz Weird". I need more weird in my life there's just too much normal in the world. We all need some craziness, to break out from what we are used to doing.

Getting together, conversing, planning, singing is a great time for adults to experiment and have play-time. Besides some craziness we need some play time. I tend to be a bit of a workaholic. Playing with the uke gives me time to play and experiment.

Back to the UU topic... posting.

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