First off... it's official, adding to my very short list of performance ukuleles (just my Mya-Moe myrtle to be exact!) is my own signature ukulele!!! Michael DaSilva of DaSilva Ukuleles (ukemaker.com) has created an ukulele that completely fits in with my ever changing play style and I have been blown away. I'll have a full post on the details of this instrument when I get a chance but for now I'll leave you with some photos. Go check out his site after you finish reading this blog post, I promise it will be worth it!
Other big news:
I’m extremely fortunate to be working together with Sarah Maisel (sarahmaisel.com) for a few different events this year. She is jazz ukulele player/singer and is just a blast to hang out with. We spent a week together recently doing a bunch of promotional material (I can’t mention some of the other events just yet) and really hit it off. She’s extremely driven and easy to work with. Between the two of us, there is a ton of different styles and instruction that we can cover which will be extremely useful later this year.
The first event we are doing together happens to be described in the next section...
My return to the Cairns Australia Ukulele Festival!
I cannot believe how fast time flies. My first trip to Cairns was very special. That was when I decided I was going to dedicate myself to music. Music will be my job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Every decision will be made towards that goal. Looking back it seems it wasn’t much of a choice as I’ve been working toward that conclusion my whole life but in the moment, it was the scariest and most exciting point in my life.
The trip really opened my eyes and thrust me head first into the water filled with others who were filled to the brim with experience and talent. Although quickly intimidated (this was the first festival I’ve been a part of that was filled with that many great performers), it never crossed my mind that I might drown in this vastly increasing ocean. I learned, watched and grew from the experience. Instead of trying to scramble my way to the top to breathe, I realized I was able to find my own path up towards the light and I found my place. Then I dipped back down and looked for a different path. I’ve continued this cycle a few times while I have been growing as a musician (and as a person) and love where each experiment takes me. I love being able to play in different styles, in a full 10 piece band or as a duo, in front of thousands or just one special person. I love trying my hand at things I am completely uncomfortable with just to see if I can do it. I can’t express how much fun I’m having because of it.
Last year (my 2nd time), I was much more confident. I really focused on connections I made with attendees the previous year because I was truly excited to see how they were doing (not just musically). They were part of the whole experience, the whole decision to pursue music full time, and I’ve been really lucky to stay in touch with them. I was much more hands-on throughout the event (even if just taking photos), getting to know new comers, finally meeting people who were too shy to say hello the first year (hi Kahiwa!) and loved every minute of it. That is until I got sick. This was my biggest regret from last year... My throat was shot and I completely blew out my voice during my first performance and could barely talk throughout my second performance. I was crushed. Some of my favorite musicians are in Cairns (Ryo, Tiffany, I’m looking at you) and it destroyed me knowing that in my short window of time performing with them, I was not at 100%... or even 10%.
With that in mind, I am overjoyed to be returning again to Cairns. I’ve been working on some very special surprises with other performers. Expect bigger this year. I’m sure we will expand on all the great things that worked out in previous and experiment with new ones! The staff has shown year after year that they are determined to put on a great event and have been incredibly successful thus far. Personally I want to get more traditional “non-ukers” involved. I’ve said this before, but you do not need to love the ukulele to enjoy this festival, just someone who enjoys good music. Most importantly it's fun! There is something special about the ukulele... you'll witness it yourself at this festival, seeing people from all over, of all ages, get together and share songs, techniques, and joy of being able to play music together.
For repeat attendees, expect more. As you have grown as musicians, so have we as instructors. As your ears have been soaking in more lovely ukulele music, we have been honing our craft and expanding our skill sets. I promise you will see many more unique collaborations this year. I also promise that Sarah Maisel will bake you cookies. Well... maybe not but you will fall in love with her (and her music!).
The past few years have been incredible and I’ve had a lot of help along the way (too many to mention at the moment but I will make a giant list soon). Cairns was a life changing event, like my father putting me on a bicycle for the first time and gently nudging me down a steep hill. Maybe nudge was more like a shove. Either way, thank you to the staff and attendees of the Cairns ukulele festival. I’ll see you soon.
PS big thank you to Bob Williams for your excellent photography skills, I hope to work with you again soon!