In response to our invitation for members to share their ukulele journeys in our newsletter, Adrian Board explains how he got hooked on uke. Please email to share your ukulele journey.
I’ve always wanted to sing and perform. Some of my friends could play guitar and sing, and I was so-o-o envious. I loved being with them when they jammed, but I couldn’t join in.
Fast forward to 2015. I was 45 years old, out of work and very depressed. I decided to take on something new whilst I looked for work. When I rang David Hethorn, he offered to lend me a uke, and said, “Come down to Coorparoo Bowls Club next Wednesday night.” I figured he’d teach me a few chords over a beer …
When I turned up, David handed me a uke, and directed me to the beginners’ class. I walked out being able to play the beginnings of “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz. That night I joined the main jam, and was blown away by David’s set that included “Budapest, a song by Daft Punk and another by David Bowie. I couldn’t believe it. Daft Punk on a uke? “That’s it,” I thought, “I’m hooked.” “Mate, this is what you’ve always wanted,” I told myself. “If you’re ever gonna find out if it’s possible, then now is the time. Don’t die wondering.”
First open mics
At my second jam, I had a crack at open mic playing Passenger’s “Let Her Go”. It was terrifying. I can’t remember whether I did a good job or not, but it doesn’t matter. I was so proud of myself. I’d set myself a very scary goal and achieved it. People were happy for me. I was definitely hooked.
I became an enthusiastic member of BUMS, and agreed to help at SPRUKE 2015 — Brisbane’s Ukulele Festival. I was put in charge of the volunteers. I had two things in my favour. Having worked on IT projects, I knew how to herd cats. Secondly, I had amazing support from Keryn Henderson. We spent many hours together, and she became my ukulele wife — John seemed happy to share her. And I met the rest of the committee, and made some new friends.
During SPRUKE I did an open mic. Steve Sandilands jumped in with me. He hadn’t done an open mic before, and I assume he figured that if the newbie could be brave and get up, then he could too. Look at where he’s gone since. Amazing! During that open mic, I made a new commitment to myself that I would perform at the SPRUKE 2017.
First time leading at a jam
Next I wanted to lead a set at a jam, and BUMS and John Henderson and Mick Angeles gave me the moral and musical support. It was an amazing experience, and it was the first of many jam sets I’ve led since. When you lead a set at a jam, you really do have the best seat in the house. It looks and sounds completely different from when you’re sitting down. You see about 50 to 100 smiling faces wishing you success. The sound of the ukes and voices coming back at you is like a wave of an accompanying band.
First public performances
My first public performance was a paid gig. I couldn’t believe it. David Hethorn asked me to join him for a corporate party. I’d only been playing a few months, and I was extremely nervous, and mostly useless, but I survived.
I followed up by establishing a group (mid 2016) with Chan Hoo, David Hethorn (on piano), Chrissy Heinrich, Steve Sandilands and Keryn Henderson to perform at Sandgate’s Masonic Lodge aged care (now Regis Sandgate). Our performance was very well received. David showed his incredible versatility on piano, and Chan stole the show with his renditions of the residents’ all time favourites. It was for my neighbour’s father. It was the last time he came out of his room before he passed. It was a joy and a privilege to provide some happiness at that time.
Running sets led to more performances with Blair Marks, John Henderson, David Hethorn (on percussion) and Paul Morris (on ubass) as Ukulele Heroes Collective. We played first at the Pine Rivers Show,
at City Sounds in the Queen St Mall, and in the beer garden at QPAC.
Taking and making opportunities
In 2017, David and I auditioned to be buskers at Southbank. Whilst waiting, we met a girl called Ash who was also a ukulele player. None of us got in. As we parted, I realised it would be great to play with Ash – she has such a sweet voice. I chased after her, and when I asked her to join me, she said yes.
We practised together and played on the main stage at SPRUKE 2017 in front of my family and friends. Here’s a link to a few of those songs at SPRUKE.
Making more music with others
In 2019, I teamed up with Amanda Allwood and Trish Rodwell as Duo-Ver. We performed at the Sunshine Coast Uke Fest and SPRUKE 2019.
I have learned so much from them — most importantly to perform without the music in front of me.
It was terrifying at first, but with practice I did it. We were getting ready to perform again when COVID hit … Sigh…
I love to share what I’ve learnt – whether in my career as an IT trainer, or as a ukulele player and performer. I’m keen to spread understanding when I play at a jam, and I’ve posted items on the BUMS Online Facebook page because I want others to learn the same things I have.
I started a beginners’ class with my work colleagues, and some of them have been brave enough to perform at jams.
It gives me great pleasure to support and encourage other players to take this step up. If you would like to join me in leading a set or an open mic, come and ask me.
Ukulele helps me maintain my sanity. I travel a lot for work, and I take my uke wherever I go. After a day’s work, I strum the day’s stress away. I’m always on the lookout for other uke players to meet new people and learn new songs. Last week, I joined the Townsville Ukuleles for a jam.
Another learning for me is that I am no longer scared to be scared. There is no excitement without fear. Now I can be ‘that bloke’ who can play songs at a campfire so others can join in. Now I’ve performed at parties and corporate events, even been paid sometimes.
Performing in front of a crowd is fabulous. If you see me perform, then it is you who is giving me joy. It is such a privilege to have you take a few minutes out of your life to listen and, I hope, enjoy.
So, if you have the itch to perform, give it a go. Don’t die wondering!