artist spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Sarah Maisel


sarahmaiselbanner sarahfront Check out our newest featured artist here at Ukulele Inspired, Sarah Maisel.  If you are paying any attention to the ukulele scene then you may have heard of this very gifted lady.  I did a quick write up about a workshop and concert she did awhile back with Craig Chee at DaSilva Ukulele Co.  You can read more about it here.  With a very smooth and distinctive style of playing and an incredible voice, Sarah is getting a lot of deserved attention.  With all of her traveling, performing, and teaching, Sarah still found the time to answer a few questions for us.  Thanks Sarah!

UI: How did you first start playing ukulele? Sarah:  Being from Birmingham, AL, I had never seen a ukulele. When I moved out to San Diego, CA in 2004, I had my first experiences with the uke. BUT it wasn't until 2006, when my friend took me to a pizza place in Encinitas, CA to check out "Hawaii Night". It was AMAZING- 40 or more ukulele players (and several hula dancers) enjoying and playing Hawaiian music. I had never seen anything like it and was hooked instantly.

UI: How long have you been playing? Sarah:  I have been playing ukulele since October 2006.

UI: What is the best part about playing the ukulele? Sarah:  I'd say the best part about being an ukulele player are all the awesome friends that you make. Uke people are the friendliest and kindest people I have ever met. The friendships you make with the uke are life time ones.

UI: Where do you find inspiration? Sarah:  I find inspiration everywhere. I know that can sound cliche, but it is true. I always get re-inspired when I am teaching. I love seeing someone enjoying music made with their own hands; it's a wonderful feeling to be a part of that. It fuels my fire for teaching. I also get inspiration from driving and listening to the radio... Or even going to the beach and relaxing. There is so much in life that can inspire you, you just have to be open to it.

LINKS: Website: Facebook: YouTube:

Artist Spotlight: Ukulenny


ulfullbanneruljump I had the opportunity to meet our newest featured artist at one of his local Bay Area uke jams, and he was nice enough to answer a few of our questions about the uke and where he gets inspiration.  Ukulenny is an amazing performer, educator, and youtube sensation.  Be sure to check him out, subscribe to his channel, and attend one of his events or performances if you get a chance!

UI: How did you first start playing ukulele? Ukulenny:  The seed was planted on a family trip to Hawaii when I was 10 years old, I picked up a cheap ukulele and some books and started strumming some chords (I had a little experience with guitar so it made sense to me).  The uke was too cheap to stay in tune, however, and I lost touch.  It wasn't until after college that I picked up the instrument again, and rejuvenated with Jake Shimabukuro as inspiration, I decided to buy a real ukulele and began taking it more seriously.  In 2010, the magic happened.  I was playing bass for a musical in SF, which meant commuting every weekend from the East Bay.  I decided to bring my ukulele each way, practicing during each trip, and eventually found myself playing and singing my heart out to the BART crowd.  It was then I started going by the name Ukulenny, and found my new favorite instrument, the uke.

UI: How long have you been playing? Ukulenny:  I've been playing music my whole life, started on piano at age 5 and moved on to the guitar through my middle school and high school years, picked up the saxophone in the Cal Marching Band, and everything in between - bass, cello, flute, clarinet, drums, among other things.  Officially I've been playing uke since 2008, so 6 years, but I've been able to apply all my love of music to this awesome little instrument.

UI: What is the best part about playing the ukulele? Ukulenny:  My favorite part about playing the ukulele is that I can play it anywhere.  Being the music addict that I am, the thought of making music at any given moment with the uke on my back brings me joy.  Its portability also means that you can practice virtually anywhere at anytime, which is great for any traveling musician who might not normally be able to find time to practice.  That I can play it on BART quietly enough to go unnoticed, yet loud enough to entertain a crowd, is a huge plus.  But perhaps even better than that is the fact that the uke is so accessible - it's an instrument for all ages and skill levels, which makes it such an exciting instrument to teach.  I enjoy teaching, and the uke is an incredible instrument for building community and gathering a whole bunch of people together to make music.

UI: Where do you find inspiration? Ukulenny:  The uke community is full of happy, joyful people.  How could one be sad with an instrument like this?  So I definitely find my inspiration from all those wonderful people out there who play the ukulele and make it such a pleasure to be a part of the uke world.  I have to give special shoutouts to my Uke Idols, Jake Shimabukuro, Troy Fernandez, Aldrine Guerrero, Kalei Gamiao, and the many others who have done so much for the ukulele.  But all of my friends who are making incredible music now with the ukulele continue to inspire me to do the same - folks like Ben Ahn, Melvin Gutierrez, Cynthia Lin, Craig Chee, Sarah Maisel, Robbie Lee, and Jion Jugo.  These musicians make me proud to play the uke and keep me going.  Finally, I draw much inspiration from the people I teach, whether it's folks at ukulele nights and workshops, students in my Ukulele Club at Oakland School for the Arts, or those watching my videos on YouTube.  Whenever I'm having a tough day I stop and read nice messages from uke players all over the world, some people that successfully played their first song or something or other from one of my videos.  It might seem cheesy but it really means a lot to me to know that people are learning to play the uke through me, and are thus inducted into our amazing community.  I'm just so happy to know that because of my work, somebody else is making music and gets to share in the joy I feel every day as an ukulele player.


Artist Spotlight: Scott Stahlecker


scottstahleckerAUFI For our next Artist Spotlight we are featuring talented multi-instrumentalist Scott Stahlecker who hails from my own home state of Alaska.  He was kind enough to answer a few questions about the ukulele and where he gets inspiration.

UI:  How did you first start playing ukulele? Scott:   I grew up on Oahu and at that time the schools didn't have much of a band program. Instead, they had ukulele programs. I remember getting my first ukulele. My dad had driven me to a music store in Honolulu and bought me a Kamaka. On the drive home he wouldn't let me play it in the car because I might make too much noise, so I remember holding it backwards and strumming the back of the neck instead. Hawaii 5-0 was the first song I learned.

UI: How long have you been playing? Scott:   I started playing the ukulele around age five, and played it through my elementary school years into Jr. high school. When I moved away from the islands I stopped playing ukulele, and switched to the drums. I really didn't play the ukulele again until I took a trip back to the islands in 2005 and bought a 6 string tenor ukulele. So, I've been playing about 16 years. In my home studio I have 4 tenor ukuleles, and a Kala U-Bass. I put out my first CD Rainforest Dance in 2012, and I'm currently recording a second CD, along with my newly formed band.

UI: What is the best part about playing the ukulele (or being a ukulele player)? Scott:   Although I grew up in the islands and have a genuine love for the traditional Hawaiian ukulele style, I think it's great that the ukulele has gone mainstream. People from all over the world who play in many different kinds of genres are incorporating the ukulele into their own brand of music. What I like about the ukulele is its tonal qualities. It also has a distinct sound that blends well with other instruments. It's great for playing rock, pop, jazz, the blues, and what I play, ukulele fusion. Most of the songs I'm recording now are a blend of ukulele with acoustic and electric guitars, piano, flute, keyboards, bass, and strings such as the cello and violin. The ukulele  blends great with these instruments. It's extremely versatile.

UI: Where do you find inspiration? Scott:   I enjoy listening to many of the up and coming ukulele instrumentalists, because they push the boundaries of just how well this instrument can be played. But my interest in playing the ukulele extends beyond mastering it like an instrumentalist might want to master it. I've played drums for a number of bands through the years, and dabbled in other instruments as well. Great guitar players like Al Di Meola, Satriani, and Jeff Beck, or drummers like Neil Pert of Rush, still inspire me. I also get inspiration from listening to music from many different genres. My musical roots are from playing in a band. So, my focus these days is in taking the ukulele even more mainstream, by composing songs based in the ukulele that also work with a band.

Big thanks to Scott for taking the time to answer a few questions, be sure to check out his music and videos and stay tuned for more from Ukulele Inspired.

LINKS: [sixcol_one]website: youtube: facebook: soundcloud:[/sixcol_one] [sixcol_five_last] [/sixcol_five_last]

Artist Spotlight: Madeline Tasquin


madelinebannermadelineukelarge We are really excited to have our first artist spotlight here at Ukulele Inspired, and even more stoked that it is the Bay Area's own Madeline Tasquin!  She is currently on tour in Europe, but before she left we were lucky enough to get a few questions answered about the ukulele and where she gets inspiration:

UI:  How did you first start playing ukulele? Maddy:  I was backstage at my friend's birthday party/show in San Francisco and this friend had been gifted a nice little Lanikai concert uke for his birthday. As soon as I started playing it I knew I needed to have one for my own. I went to my local music store in Berkeley the following week and scoped them out until I found one I fell in love with -- also a Lanikai concert.

UI:  How long have you been playing the uke? Maddy:  By my count, I first started in December 2010. So that makes it about 2 and a half years... a quarter of a decade. Wow it doesn't seem like it's been that long.

UI:  Best part about playing the ukulele? Maddy:  It's portability! My main instrument is the piano, which I find isn't all that easy to sling over my back to take with me on a hike or the subway or on my bicycle. The only thing more portable than my ukulele is my voice... my other main instrument. So together uke + voice is a perfect way for me to compose songs in places where I can't drag my piano.

UI:  Where do you find inspiration? For songwriting, in nature. I write the most when I'm far away from my computer and my mind isn't crowded.   As far as ukulele inspiration goes... all the guest performers, guest teachers, and participants at the monthly Ukulele Love-In gathering I put on at the Actual Cafe have inspired me to push my playing further.  Organizing that event really flung me into ukulele land, something I didn't expect or even know existed. For that I'm grateful.

Thanks again to Maddy for taking the time to talk with us.  If you want to stay up to date with her follow the links below and remember to mark your calendars for September 8th, when her Ukulele Love in makes it's return to Actual Cafe!