Strumming Along with Jake Shimabukuro
Usually I write about museums and technology, but had a great experience yesterday in a class with ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro, and wanted to jot down a few notes. And maybe by the end wrap that into some thinking about museums, communities and special events…
So, about a month ago I got word through the Ukulele Union meetup group I belong to that Jake Shimabukuro would be offering a class through the Office for the Arts at Harvard. I pounced, sending an RSVP before the event sold out (which it did). For those who don’t know, Jake Shimabukuro is the ukulele master whose video on YouTube went viral. (See also his TED video).
The event was great, with a mix of performing (including his rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody), talking about ukulele as an instrument for everyone and “the joy that music brings, when you are are playing with a group and experience something beautiful.” And there was group participation, with over 120 of us in the audience with our ukulele’s strumming along. The experience level in the audience was wide, from absolute beginners to advanced players. Polly Yukevich of the Four Strings Foundation came out and stepped us through chords while Jake walked through the audience helping. (He tapped me on the shoulder and asked how the G chord was coming, and I give a thumbs up. All is good).
Pretty inspiring event. So, how might museums tap into this kind of thing? The Office of the Arts at Harvard is playing with a good model. Find an impassioned (and kindhearted) performer, create an event and invite members of already existing local community groups (like ukulele meetups) to attend. Then, I think keep in touch with those who attended via email and social media. The museum connects itself out in the community using existing networks of motivated people. Ukuleles are a natural for this (my friend Jenn Schmitt at the DeCordova Museum tells me they’ve hosted Ukulele Melee). What other motivated and engaged communities are out there that might connect with museums? Probably quilters, DIY musical instrument makers…what else?
(In a couple months I’ll be experimenting with a meetup event for museum visits, and will post more then…)