Some of the biggest and best names in the ukulele world – from Hawaii, Europe, the U.S., and Canada – are coming together virtually for an international symposium.
And homegrown talent from Langley, including Peter and Paul Luongo, James Hill, and Elizabeth Zielke will be among those featured in the NAMM Foundation’s webinar-based series that began this week and carries into the summer.
The purpose, said Peter Luongo, is to bring music educators, ukulele teachers, learners, enthusiasts, community program coordinators, etc., into a conversation about the growing trend of teaching, learning, and enjoying music-making for all ages – “employing the ukulele.”
Since COVID has put a halt to many of the traditional music conventions and educational events, NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants (like so many other groups) has taking things online, and opted to present this new series monthly through July.
NAMM has been around since 1901, strengthening the music industry usually through trade shows, exhibits, and conventions. It represents about 100,000 people from all around the globe who are involved in all aspects of the music-making industry.
In January, NAMM featured a three-day virtual International Ukulele Teaching Symposium tied in with its Believe in Music Week.
The popular event (usually a huge convention hosted in person in Anaheim) was this year lead online by Luongo senior – the retired music director for the Langley Ukulele Ensemble – and featured renowned ukulele community leaders discussing best teaching practices during the current remote-learning period and beyond.
Back in 2020, Peter brought his adult Legacy Ukulele Ensemble to the convention (for the second year running) and last year Paul also brought the Langley kids – just before COVID shut down travel.
January’s online symposium was “so successful,” Peter said, that he and NAMM decided to run five additional sessions – to continue the dialogue about teaching and learning to play the ukulele – in an international webinar format. The series runs on the final Thursday of each month starting this week.
The series kicked off this past Thursday, March 25, with J. Chalmers Doane, ‘Grandfather of Canadian Ukulele’ – the man who created Canada’s ukulele initiative 50 years ago. He was joined by his daughter, Melanie, who established a community program 10 years ago that currently offers weekly lessons to 1,000 students in Toronto.
“This is actually a big deal! The NAMM Foundation is highly respected in the music industry and for them to offer their platform and a voice to the ukulele, for Canada to be prominently positioned in the conversation, to be able to include Langley, and for them to trust me to host it all is huge,” Peter said.
The schedule for the international uke symposium is as follows:
April 29: The founders of the most successful ukulele studio in Hawaii, Roy and Kathy Sakuma, and their most famous alumnus, Jake Shimabukuro.
May 27: Peter and Paul Luongo, and Elizabeth Zielke will discuss The Langley Ukulele Association (established in 1981) that features the internationally acclaimed Langley Ukulele Ensemble.
June 24: James Hill (A Langley uke ensemble alum) will speak to the multiple teaching and learning initiatives that he has developed under the UKETROPOLIS label.
July 29: A panel of workshop and festival organizers (Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, Ben Hassenger, and Mary Agnes Krell) will discuss learning formats for opportunities that will be available for ukulele enthusiasts in 2021 and beyond.
”The LUA is actually in our 40th year,” said Peter. “As you know, COVID has really impacted the arts and in our case it’s severely restricted our ability to get out and live our motto of enriching Lives Through Music. That said, Paul and Liz have done some virtual performances. They have continued to rehearse with the kids (following the same safety protocols as Langley schools) and I’ve even managed to run a program that features a group of beginning level kids learning to play from some of Paul’s high school-aged ensemble members.”
And now, in addition to participating in the international forum, the Luongo boys and Zielke will be leading a new spring uke workshop for learners of all ages. It is is being offered by the local uke association next month.
LUA will host the one-day workshop on Saturday, April 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a cost of $15 per session or $40 all access with sessions focusing on strumming and chording, finger picking, chord melody, and playing by ear.
For more information, people can visit the LUA website at www.langleyukes.com.