Kate here … I’d like to grab this one little moment to acknowledge gifts people gave us before the big trip.  All were gifts; some money, some homemade, some just downright thoughtful.   All were accepted with love, thanks and respect.

The gas money we received got us through a lot of miles and back again.   10,000 miles.  We received a check in person from Chris recently.  She said she wanted to be part of the ride by contributing to the miles ahead.  Chris doesn’t like computers much so her delivery came with a package of her most delicious spice cake with chocolate chips.   We didn’t have any sweets at home that day so the cake was a well-timed treat.   We scarfed it up in short order and did not share it with anybody.  Yum.   The money went into roadtrip savings and will buy more than a few miles.  Thanks, Chrissy.  We were moved by your gift.

We have been moved by the generosity of people who want to encourage our music activity.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  You have given us courage and your support has made us braver than we might have been, brave enough to do it.  The miles we covered in those 72 days is just the beginning of what looks like the road ahead for the next year or so.  The tour this Fall was just the beginning…

Friends and strangers alike donated to the cause by using the donation button on our website homepage.  Their gifts were little miracles.  We are humble and thankful for the help.  When we lost our brakes or the solenoid needed replacing, the money was there to get it repaired.  Thank you.   That donation button paid and pays for a lot of gas.  At 10 mpg, more like 12 (wow!), fuel is a significant ingredient to getting us to the gig.   “Modoc”, our Ford/Airstream conversion van is not a Prius or a Sprinter, that’s for sure.  It is a mobile room on wheels we lived in pretty happily for 72 days and we never had to stay in a motel.  Being camped out on wheels is not uncomfortable – unless you’re parked on a hill.

Thank you for helping to get us out there.   We came home with new partnerships, book deals and fans.  Now we’re home for January and booking the next two years as far as we can.  For the most part, will keep putting ourselves out there spreading the music with concerts and workshops around the country.  Thank you for helping us to get out there and home again this Fall.  It wouldn’t have happened without you.  That tour turned into a real beginning for us.  We are planning to continue on this vein while it seems like a good idea.

Thanks to your support, we converted hundreds of people while we were out there into playing music for the first time, ukalaliens all around the country.  It was (and continues to be) a good mission for us.  We are motivated to help people learn to play and our book and workshop gets good results.   We may not be rich but there’s a lot of satisfaction in doing the work we do and that counts for a lot when it comes to our quality of life as musicians.  We’re not so much uke crazy as we are community crazy.  Ukuleles are the new peace medium.  It is impossible to be enemies or strangers for long when you play ukuleles and sing together.

The fantasy gift of all fantasies back in the catacombs of hope in my mind look like this… George Soros gets wind of what we’re doing, teaching people to make beautiful music with everybody, spurring the uninitiated to sing and play and bringing those who never thought they could do it into the fold.  Growing musicality in communities makes a better world.

Soros’ Open Society mission “to nurture the development of a society that allows all people to participate equitably in political, economic and cultural life” could use the Ukalaliens as a tool to integrate diverse groups.  That fits.   Maybe George Soros himself, by some perfect kismet, comes across our music or Quality Folk and decides (with a little smile on his face) to hit our donate button and give so that we never have to worry about where the money comes from.

Good one, huh?  We would keep on singing, harmonizing and teaching everybody everywhere we go to make music on the spot, singing and playing together on ukes.  Being musical for the first time is a transformative moment.  Our job would just be to show up and do what we do;  get people going, walk them over the bridge to making music, deepening their connection in themselves and with others, their community; happy and safe in the sound of music from their own hands and the open society of Ukalaliens.

Do you think George Soros has a ukulele?  I think George Soros would make an awesome Ukalalien.

Come February more miles ahead.  And March.  And April.  Home for May.   Gone again in June.  On it goes and will for a while, maybe even years.  It’s a little odd adjusting to the back and forth.  We’re not home for long and traveling becomes home on the range of the road map.  Our sense of home is shifting from a place to a state-of-being.

As folksingers, viability comes with travel.   Our kids have grown up and gone, the shop is somebody else’s puzzle now and our life in the arts is bursting at the seams and growing.   We live for connection and community through the work we do in music, art, writing and teaching.

We find ourselves moving between several skins in various stages of shedding and growing.   The sense of urgency that drives the  metamorphoses pulls us over the edge of the unknown and brings us to new ground.  We are operating on pure intention coupled with our wits and experience.  Faith.  We deliver a beginning in making music with a lifetime of songs and playing behind us.  People are often surprised at how much they enjoy themselves with what we show them.   We are satisfied when they are happy.  Our home in our house of fifteen years grows remote as the the road turns into familiar ground under our turning wheels.  The paradigm has shifted from the place we’ve been in for so long.  Our days in the music store are over.  Our kids are grown and bringing beautiful grandchildren into our lives.  The house has outgrown us.  We don’t need what we did before.

Meanwhile, people are smitten with our journey we’re on and share their dreams with us.  There’s something to be said for dreams.  In order to come true you have to start with the dream.   Dreams do come true.  It’s all possible.

Time to go play the banjo.  Thank you for helping us follow our dream to share our music and to help others become musical.   It is an adventure of a lifetime.   I’m glad we get to share it with you.  Thanks for being with us.  Peace…

Kate here – Entering 2010, we are grateful for the gift of you.  Hokey but true.  Your support and encouragement made it possible for us to venture out from home in Portland, Oregon to sing and play (and get other people singing and playing while we’re at it) in new places around the country.  You gave us courage, gas money and dreamed that we could do it and we did.  A lot of you were on the tour with us, in spirit at least.  Some of you even came all the way to some of the gigs, Pete Seeger, Passim.  It was a great time of discovery and connection.  Thank you for that.  It worked.   You spurred us on and went 10,000 miles.  We are back and the year has turned.

Lights at the end of the day

Lighting our way home....

We traveled the country for 72 days, eating and sleeping in “Modoc”, our trusty silver & blue-lined Airstream conversion Ford Econoline van.  We found state parks and folk-friendly driveways on the way to music stages and stores, and community centers filled with the locals.  People were curious about us. “The Ukalaliens are here!” they’d smile and they made us welcome.

We left home to try out the unknown and hit the road on Thursday morning, Ocotber 1st.   For the next ten weeks we aimed for gigs and workshops with 26 ukuleles, three guitars, a banjo, two more ukes,  a new book, in fact 500 copies of the new “Ukalaliens Songbook”, published and released that very same day, all snug in their boxes overhead in the cab.

This may not sound appealing to some, but for us it was epic.  The physical act of it was enormous.  19 feet long, ten feet tall.  City parking, no problem.  Modoc handled like a mid-sized boat on wheels.  9500 pounds plus us, it was like driving an ark.  Power steering, high beam button on the floor, cruise control and the reflexes of a sensitive elephant.   Reflexes jolted if you hurried the brakes or took a corner too fast. Not the Westy by a long shot.  More like the elephant it was named after.  Before long our pace was in synch and the road was ours.

The discovery of new towns and places, people, each with a flavor of its own.  Friendly chit-chat across parking lots over 10,000 miles made for a lot of encounters, mostly friendly.  Brief stops with old bonds across the country, each day so different from the one before.  We met and played for people from the deep past, from life before Portland, before Artichoke, before children, before we met.

Musicians, friends and family going all the way back, forty years or so, came out in force.  Some were following our journey with relish; a couple even toyed with quitting their jobs to create their own rendition of freedom, to do what they are passionate about while they had the gumption and wherewithal to do it.  They toasted us for catalyzing their decision and influencing them to make a move.  Gulp. Clink. To Life!  Smile and cheers, we wished them well and were gone by morning.

Circumnavigating the country in the current economic climate was a long mix of empty buildings, even malls; ghostly downtown hubs left haunted by the crash.  All but a few shopkeepers in some places, sweeping the front of their doors, pondering how long they can last.  Furrowed brows and gravity in their smiles hello, wondering what happened to life as they knew it.

We were in the hands of hosts and strangers most days who confounded us with generosity and hospitality.  Places we had been nervous about passing through turned into favorite stops.  I never knew I could love so many places the way I do now.  Missouri, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, California.  Stereotypes broke daily, some were reinforced.  Almost always, it felt good to meet people, get our bearings and do the gig. They were glad we came and we were happy to be there.  They dug what we were there to do and liked our music.

Digesting and sharing the stories that grew between stops will take a little time – brewing to unfold.

10,000 miles renewed our perspective and encouraged us to carry on.  The chance to explore, interact and connect, teach and sing with all kinds of people through the songs,  stories was a gift. In return, they explored their dreams and aspirations with us.  Making music together makes friends of strangers.

This story all started and ended here with you, dear readers.  Home indeed is where the heart is.  Music connects at the heart, crosses  borders and heals.  Thank you for being with us as we go.  The trip may be over but the journey has just begun.

We’ll start telling the stories one by one.  There are good twists to share.   Here’s to life!  On the road and back again, it’s good to be home.

A few paragraphs from October 13th and now it’s November 12!  It was almost a month ago since I sat down to try to describe all this – and even then I only got as far as two paragraphs….

I woke up scared.  Eyelids fluttered like window shades up and down as thoughts of this trip ran back and forth between the memory of looking at the map at the kitchen table back home and this ribbon of road we were following up and down to the cadence of an automated British accent from the GPS on the dashboard who says which way to turn, sometimes just in time, sometimes not at all.  She seems to have a speech impediment and is starting to show signs she’s moody.  “Her” name is Serena.

Shades of Serena’s unwitting emphasis on the wrong syllables as she directs our turns ahead sends us laughing as we imitate her gargling the last syllable , turning “boulevard” into gutteral bits, spitting from the garbage disposal “boul – e – vaaaaarrgh! that would send us again into hysterics.

Vapor trails of people from the tail end of sleep.  Heliotrope flips from snap dreaming to awakening.  Consciousness becomes the room we’ve been waking in for the past 12 days.  Snug in the couchbed, Steve’s head is countersunk like an egg in carton tucked in the oak corner on the open bed with the personality of a couch, perched between the stove and the side wall.  The driver’s side.  His back follows the van, his footprint beneath the windows that surround the midline covered from view by lined natural linen curtains.

Now it the 43rd day and we’re in Punta Gorda, Florida.

We’ve been through Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington DC and headed south for Florida.  After a wonderful concert for the Greater Washington DC folk society in Andy & Sondra Wallace’s historic home in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, we blasted into the rainy night for Jacksonville.

It was a long drive this morning from West Palm Beach.  Thunderheads lined the sky all day, deepening the blue contrast between light and dark. We are with my parents.  We will be here for a few days.  It’s been a coupe of years since our last time together.  We are all a little older and it’s so good to see each other we are just taking each other in, hello.  It is a time to savor.

Then it will be a mad dash for the west coast.  We need to be in Carlsbad, California by a week from Monday at 7 o’clock.   Then it’s Thanksgiving at Mary’s in Los Osos on the Central California Coast and a few days off the road.

Today is Thursday.  We’re in the southern gulf coast of Florida.

Dad gets his favorite guitar, the one that’s leaning on the kitchen table, and picks it up with a “What do you say, how about a song?”

Steve gets his.  I pull out the banjo.  It’s a beautiful thing.  “When I was falling like a leaf from the tree…” sings out from between the strings.  Harmony.  It’s right it should be, this song.  I wrote it for him after all.  “Ole Dad”.  He grins with a smile that takes up his whole face.

Dad’s got a songs he learned from his Happy Traum’s Homespun DVD.  He loves Happy Traum and says, “I feel like I know him from his tapes” and the song is sweet.  He’s been learning guitar bits from Happy’s instructional videos for years now.  Soft, not too loud.  Just loud enough to hear it.   It’s a version of “I’ll Fly Away” in G with a dropped D.  It’s got the Happy trademark arrangement and sound that makes it his.  He picks the tune sweet and naturally, no tension as though fingertips must have been made to tickle sweet melodies out of the guitar strings waiting to be plucked.  It’s a fine thing.

Many miles ahead of us.  Today it’s time to be with my parents and take in the life they have here.  We’ll give a uke workshop here tomorrow and a concert in the evening.  Then it’s 2641 miles from here to Carlsbad, California by November 23.  One foot in front of the other.  One song at a time.Day

Ukalaliens in Shelton, WA 8/16/2009

Ukalaliens in Shelton, WA 8/16/2009

Kate here  – Back in the 1950’s, a bellhop named Pedro Flores took a yo-yo out of his pocket to entertain himself during his lunch break in front of the hotel in Santa Monica. Carving and playing with wooden yo-yos was a traditional pastime for this Phillipino but the crowd that soon surrounded him had never seen anything like it. Before long, the yo-yo (which means “come-come”) drew so much excitement that Pedro started a company to make the toys that eventually became ubiquitous Duncan Yo-Yo.

The company sent yo-yo masters around the country to display the wonders of the yo-yo to the uninitiated. Steve remembers a Phillipino yo-yo champion captivating he and his buddies in Teaneck, NJ. He was sent by Duncan and outside the local soda fountain began demonstrating his astonishing skill on yo-yo. After his tricks, he pulled out a small carving knife and in short order handed over his yo-yo with a palm tree beautifully carved on the side to the nearest lucky boy, Steve. It is a fond memory from his childhood.

That fond memory planted a seed that has grown into a beanstalk of an idea that we are referring to as the “Ukalalien Tour”, 80-days around the USA teaching Ukalaliens and playing shows from the end of September to mid-December!

Steve and I have spent most of our lives enchanted with folk music, folk instruments, songs and stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Pete Seeger mentored that into us from the beginning and we’ve carry on the tradition he created as well as we can. Twenty-five years of showing folks at Artichoke Music their first three chords has grown our love and respect for the simplicity and joy that the ukulele provides to everybody who tries it. The ukulele has become the perfect “gateway” instrument through which all things musical are possible.

We are keen to introduce the uke to people who want to come into the fold of playing music. So, we are taking it upon ourselves to show them how. Why? The expression on a beginning player’s face when they realize that they can play, even a little, is so satisfying! It makes a difference in people’s lives when they begin to make a little music that all of the songs and fancy stringwork that Steve and I can pull off pales in comparison to that joy.  It’s a privilege to open the door for a new player. After all those years at Artichoke, we’re hooked getting people across the bridge to the musical side of life.

The happy result is that we’re turning out dozens of new uke players every day into the streets of their lives making the world a little more musical with every strum. This is where we find our path taking us.

Back to life at hand, the final version of the soon-to-be-available-at-www.qualityfolk.com-and-wherever-we-go “Ukalaliens Songbook” is going to the print this week . This book, I have to say, is one of the sweetest music books. It’s filled with Steve’s art, drawn especially for Ukalaliens. The method is in “Steve & Kate” language and teaches the sameway we sound and show, the way we have always taught. There are twenty traditional and original songs in slow, learning speed and full versions to practice with.

You are going to have all the opportunity to play with us you could ever want by just putting the “Ukalaliens Songbook” CD in your player and grabbing your ukulele (or any other instrument for that matter!).  We’ll tune together, learn chords, strums, picks and tricks together and then sing till the cows come home with every song. Steve’s narration is warm and friendly and steadies the confidence of even the most reluctant beginner. We sing and play together all through the CD and by the end, between the book and the CD, it’s inevitable that you will be a seasoned beginner by the end.

Come October 1st, you’ll be able to get it online at our website at http://www.qualityfolk.com and at all of our gigs, workshops and appearances around the country.

Ukalalien sitings are inevitable all around the nation. We will harmonize with people in as many places as we can, west to east and home again. The calendar will have all our confirmed stops posted before we leave near the end of September. If you think there’s someplace we should stop – let us know! Thanks.

Hope to see you along the way. We are grateful for all the support, love, encouragement and music you bring into our lives. To the sponsors, Kala, Mya-Moe, Nossa Familia, and everybody involved for partnering with our mission to harmonize community with our music. We’re not as scared to try when we think of you. It’s great to be alive and sharing the way we go with each and every one of you… Thank you. Kate

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt