When my wife’s grandmother gave me a 1920’s Columbia Hawaiian ukulele twelve years ago I was a banjo player. I was going to play at the Grand Old Opry. I had met Earl Scruggs!
Banjo players are a special breed, they have to be, to put up with all the banjo player jokes. How many banjo players does it take to screw in a light bulb? Just one, but first he has to know how Earl did it. That was my favorite. I would not be swayed from my path to banjo greatness by the humble ukulele!
Over the next year or two I noodled with the uke, bought an instruction book and tried to learn Baby Face, but I always got hung up on that diminished chord. In remembering back to that time a decade ago, I can’t point to when the transition from banjo to ukulele took place. I don’t recall one day declaring “I’m not a banjo player anymore!” or anything dramatic like that. But, by 2005, I didn’t own any banjos.
I really liked the fact no one seemed to know anything about the ukulele. When people see someone with a banjo, they get ideas. Plus, I knew of no Grand Uke Opry that would require ten thousand hours of practice to get good enough to play there. The ukulele had somehow freed me from the bonds of expectations.
In fact, I start every one of my workshops now with this quote,”Expectations are the harbingers of disappointment.” By letting go of my expectations of what being a “musician” was and that there was some magical finish line, I began to learn how to play.