Kate here – Last week in September 2010. What an amazing week it was. We left Olympia for our first McMenamins run to sing our songs in Centralia & Edgefield and brought our Uke & Sing to the Kennedy School. My, that was fun! So fun, we’re going to do it again in October.

Then we went to the Oregon coast and taught our Ukalaliens I & II for Sitka at the Neskowin Valley School followed by a singalong that may be the best one we ever led. We’re going to bring what we learned to all of our upcoming sings and show people how to come together to make beautiful music.

The Uke & Sing! has brought about some real transformation for a lot of people and they keep thanking us for turning their musical buttons on. We are humbled by their enthusiasm and grateful for the good work that allows us to share our music and teach them how to make their own. It’s meaningful and a whole lot of fun to do. Sure, it’s a lot of schlepping, hauling and driving. We’re carrying dozens of extra ukes to share along with our banjos and guitars. It’s worth it. We hope we get to do this for a long time.

Over this next while, you’ll see us traveling closer to home in the Pacific Northwest. Come winter, we’ll bring the ukes to California and back. We’re looking for work in music stores, schools, libraries, arts organizations, retirement communities and house parties. We provide ukes, workshops and concerts filled with our music. If that sounds like something you would like to host or come to, be sure to let us know and we’ll see what we can do to get together.

Thanks for all the wonderful support you’ve shown us. We love you for it and will go the extra mile to come sing with you and for you.

This fall, we are happy to say that Homespun will release TWO DVD’s (downloadable) on our Ukalaliens I Method and Ukalaliens II with more technique & repertoire. Ukalaliens on Homespun. Yes! We may even be the first in the “Pick it Up & Play” series. We’ll let you know all about it. Meanwhile,m feel free to hit the “Homespun” button on our website homepage and meander around!

This week we are getting ready for the Olympia Artwalk with Steve’s sculptures in the great recycling gallery at Matter! and the Uke & Sing! series coming up and Arts NW conference in a couple of weeks.

Monday, October 4th at 7PM kicks off the 1st official “Uke & Sing!” at Yenney Music. Step right up! Folks can sign up for it online at our website under “Register for Events.” You can also just show up. The seats are limited to 30+ so don’t wait to get yours, just reserve your seat today! This is truly a great way to learn to play uke, to make music on any instrument, to sing and to harmonize. It gives everybody a chance to learn how to make beautiful music in a folk ensemble. Under the guidance of Steve & Kate and the simple methods of the Ukalaliens Songbook, a good time is absolutely guaranteed. Shy-friendly, beginner-to-pro friendly, all are welcome and invited to participate. Bring your instruments or just come! Absolutely no experience necessary. All experience welcome. Can’t wait to sing with you on Monday in Olympia!

While we were at the coast, we toured the Westwind Camp for the “Tunes in the Dunes” ukulele camp being planned for 9/23-9/25/2011. The beauty of the place! We took the little ferry across the Salmon River, walked on the beach to the trail up to the lodge and cabins. There was a nice amphitheatre and bonfire set up on the way. This uke camp is going to be fantastic so be sure to mark your calendars and stay tuned at www.sitkacenter.org.

Musically yours,

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.

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