It took me about 30 years to find the instrument that was the perfect fit for me. I grew up playing piano in the classical tradition, which involved a strict adherence to historic interpretation of pieces from many incredible composers. While the sound of Prokofiev continues to tug at my heart strings, I am finding a renewed sense of inspiration and passion for a realm of music that requires creative expression and an instrument that fits my size and personality.
This newfound love of the ukulele did not happen overnight. I played classical piano for 13 years, struggling to fit into a box and always feeling like a musical anomaly. I chose the clarinet in fourth grade and played in the school band through high school. I always made first chair but refused to practice. Clearly, this was not my wooden soulmate.
In high school, I discovered the guitar. I started with Nirvana riffs and then sang the soulful harmonies of female artists with women friends. Yet, the guitar never felt like the perfect fit. It was too large and bulky. I had to reach my spindly right arm over the huge body, and my shoulder-which I injured in a freak ultimate frisbee accident in college-would either lose feeling or experience too much feeling in the pain category.
The backpacker guitar I adopted to play songs around the campfire during my years as an outdoor educator never held a tune all that well, and the sound quality left something to be desired. Plus, did the world really need another female artist playing the guitar? I wanted to express myself creatively, but I just didn’t feel that inspired to practice the guitar either. I started playing the piano when I was five, and the years it took to get good were a distant memory. At the age of 30, I had not learned any more patience than the five year old version of myself and had no desire to commit the kind of time and dedicated practice to the guitar as I had for the piano.
Over the years, I tried many instruments- violin, banjo, harmonica- but none of them felt quite right.
All that changed when I met my ukulele. It was a crisp, fall day in Portland, Oregon when I met Char and Gordon Mayer at a local performance venue. Char handed me a leather-bound case. We sat together, and they gingerly lifted a dark brown koa tenor from within. It was love at first sight.
In a moment, my entire world had shifted. I wanted to play the ukulele right away and in every free moment I had. Serendipitously, I began learning a songwriting method from an academic colleague, and my passion and desire to devote myself to this remarkable instrument continued to grow.
Whether it is a ukulele- which would clearly be my first recommendation- or something else, I recommend the journey of searching for the instrument that is the perfect fit for you. It will truly change your life, and the world needs to hear your creative voice which only you can express!