As a musically challenged individual with no skills in that direction I have always had a hankering to be able to play any kind of musical instrument. Literally anything.
I sometimes felt an inadequacy as I went to many shows and musical events over the years, marvelling at the incredibly talented people who did have those skills.
When kids came along, I was determined that they would not suffer the same fate and as a consequence, sat through many hours of ear abuse as they learnt to play first the piano and later diversification as my son took up the drums (!) and my daughter the saxophone. Both became accomplished with their chosen instruments and were key members of a local youth band. This gave them an additional layer of social life, friends and self-confidence.
They gave my wife and I immense pride when we attended many of their concerts.
Life went on with me still being a musical dunce and some weeks before last Christmas, I was again bemoaning my lack of talent. It was something of a surprise therefore when, on Christmas Day 2014, I opened an intriguingly wrapped present and revealed a ukulele. My kids, now adults, were intent on getting their own back!
Now faced with reality, I began to look around for a beginner’s course.
I came across the Woolpack Music Social Club at nearby Otley through “their website”:http://www.woolpackstudios.co.uk and signed up for the beginner’s crash course at the end of January. Thus I found myself along with quite a few others on the superb course run by Jen Birch and held over three consecutive Saturday afternoons.
My expectations were not high as I had no musical talent, didn’t know one end of a ukulele from the other and could not read or understand music. All of which were no problem to incredibly talented, patient and enthusiastic Jen.
My fellow ‘Uker’s and I were astounded by the speed at which the intricacies of the instrument, musical chords and strumming patterns were explained and implemented.
Jen had us playing recognizable tunes in a very short time. We didn’t even have to learn how to read music. We also sang along to the tunes. Multi-tasking or what?
By the end of the three sessions, I was so enthused that I and several others signed up for the Improvers Course, another three Saturday afternoon sessions. I really couldn’t believe how far we progressed from a standing start. I only wish I had done it years ago.
Jen and her co-conspirator Richard Sabey, a multi talented and equally enthusiastic musician run the Woolpack Music Social Club. Our group of players meet on Wednesday mornings from 10.30 to 12.30 at the Woolpack Music and Arts Centre. This is a former public house in the centre of Otley. It has been converted into a music and arts centre with rehearsal rooms, creative areas and a fully equipped recording studio.
People of all ages are welcome, as are any instruments. We currently have a mass of ukuleles, guitars, clarinet, saxophone and fiddles.
“Take a look”:http://bit.ly/1MLLWPr at this video as our merry band perform Country Roads by John Denver.
Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. It is not at all intimidating.
Our mid-session break with tea, coffee and occasionally home-made baked treats is becoming legendary. Social evenings amongst new friends also feature.
The sessions are great fun, with new songs introduced at regular intervals.
Our musical repertoire of popular tunes and songs have built up into an impressively large collection in under a year.
People leave the sessions feeling genuinely uplifted and looking forward to the next.
Ukulele players can experience playing in live performances before the great British Public at various ‘gigs’ arranged around the area.
Jen and Richard also run Otley Ukulele Orchestra, Roundhay Ukulele Orchestra, an Acapella Choir and a party band. How they also run schemes for young people which include schools, community groups, charities, community ensembles, music theory classes, a Rock School, Ukulele and Pop band, Pop Choir and an after school music club for 9 – 11 year olds is amazing.
Jen and Richard’s work with young people (and us oldies) is inspiring.
The Woolpack Music and Social Club can be located at 14, Bondgate, Otley, LS21 3AB and are always on the look-out for new people of all ages to join our happy band.
Get strumming! It’s NEVER too late, as I have found.