Betty was too busy playing ukulele to write out her biography, so we’d like you to imagine what her life has been like and how it led to ukulele super-star-dom, and then if you’ll jot down her new biography in the space provided here we’d appreciate it.
I moved to Colorado from NYC in 1971. In 2012, I retired after 38 years as a wholesale warehouse manager. As most retirees, I wanted to try something new and I had never played any instrument. I took Gary’s class in 2013 and have been enjoying the ukulele ever since. I love the people in the orchestra, the energy, the challenge of playing with a group and of performing. I have been married to my wife, Gloria, for 44 years. We have a son in Boulder who is married and has a 2 and 1/2 year old daughter.My other interests are fly fishing, gardening, hiking, biking, woodworking, and art. Come join us to play along or to see one of our concerts.
A few years ago my kids started playing the uke. Then friends invited me to float the Colorado River through Grand Canyon, and for evening entertainment, were taking ukes along. We had a great trip, played most nights, and I was hooked. The uke is a great camp instrument due to its diminutive size and reasonable price, and yet is also a truly accessible instrument for the untrained beginner like me. I thank my kids for inspiring me to learn the instrument, my wife for allowing me to pursue another hobby, and Gary and the orchestra for giving me a place to learn the instrument.
I love spending time with my family which consists of four children, two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. It’s wonderful that they all live in the Denver area. I have three siblings with which I also keep in close contact. My English Bulldog Peaches, is a wonderful companion, we are almost inseparable. She goes with me wherever I can take her. My hobbies are growing orchids, genealogy, playing computer games and playing ukulele. I also like to go “Up the Hill” on occasion and go to see movies on the big screen. I live in a neighborhood with like minded people where we have breakfast together every Saturday and have a game night once a month. M y real passion is traveling. I take at least 3-4 trips a year, some in the USA and others outside. I belong to the “Wild Women”, a group of friends that I used to work with at FEMA, and every May we go to a different Caribbean Island. We usually stay at an “All Inclusive” Resort which is loads of fun. I love it!.
I’m a newbie in the orchestra and have jumped in the deep end. After many trips to Hawaii and eschewing the uke because I didn’t think I could fit it in with the guitar and piano, I took the leap and bought one on the last trip to Kauai. Now, the uke is my primary instrument while the guitar and piano languish in their respective corners. My alter ego is a CPA/Analyst for the Feds. In my remaining spare time, I play the handbells, sing in the church choir, run because I have to, and ride my road and mountain bikes (because I want to). My husband of 27 years is my equipment manager and excellent caretaker of our two rescued cats.
Colleen has been playing ukulele since August of 2013, after receiving a Luna ukulele from her father, for her birthday. She bring a certain je ne sais quoi to the orchestra. Her spare time (what’s that?) is spent with her husband and son. She helps administer the RMUO’s social media sites. Colleen’s ukulele’s of choice are Luna and Kala.
I sang in a Denver community chorus for 19 years. It morphed from a German men’s chorus (one of the directors noted that not all German songs need to be sung forte) to two choruses – men’s and women’s singing joint concerts to one fully combined group. After I retired in 1997 I studied classical guitar for 5 years. In the fall of 2013, a CSU professor from the College of Natural Sciences recommended the ukulele as an instrument of choice. I saw an announcement for a class in Lakewood in the spring of 2014, went ahead and took it, and here am, enjoying every moment.
After retiring in March of 2013 as a technical instructor, I decided to participate in the orchestra because my wife Debbie was involved. I started with the baritone ukulele with no prior musical training and after 2 months, I was exposed to the bass ukulele and switched. Originally I joined to participate with Debbie and found out it was a lot of fun and that I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so I am taking bass lessons on a regular basis.
Dawn is a professional actress whose credits include Saturday Night Live, Latch Key (directed by Jaime King) and Andrews Lane Studio in Dublin, Ireland. She is the former founder and artistic director for two theatre companies (one in NYC and the other in Pennsylvania) and has served as both producer and associate producer on several independent films. Favorite roles include Olivia in Twelfth Night (Hedgerow Theatre) and Frosine in The Miser (Lansdale CPA). Dawn received her B.A. in Theatre from Rowan University in NJ and Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA. For more info visit www.dawnharvey.com.
I started playing drums in the school band in 5th grade and continued through high school graduation. I also played piano, alto clarinet and dabbled with the guitar, singing and playing folk music with friends. After retiring as a high school math teacher, I bought my first ukulele at the Aloha Stadium flea market on Oahu. I found the happy sound addicting, and love playing and creating music with others. I am a founding member of the Rocky Mountain Ukulele Orchestra.
A mental challenge is what I needed after retiring from a successful 30+year career. Learning, playing, and performing music helps keep the mind and body thriving. The ukulele is a great instrument that lends itself to all styles of music. My association with such an eclectic group like RMUO is a pleasure. Besides ukulele, I enjoy traveling, movies, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, skiing, and golf.
I worked as an elementary and middle school music teacher for over 20 years. It was while teaching part-time in Boulder Valley School district that I came to be in a school which had a classroom set of brightly colored ukuleles which I had to learn how to play before I could began teaching ukulele to the second graders. What was supposed to be a two week unit turned into two month project which was enjoyed by all involved. I have been playing ukulele ever since, and now own three tenor electric/acoustic ukes. I also play the keyboards and melodica, as well as the soprano recorder and guitar. In addition to playing in RMUO I also play in a duet called “Havin Fun” and a quartet called “The Four Phroggs.”.
I found my way to Colorado after experiencing a number of different cultures. While living on Gran Canaria, Spain, I was introduced to the timple, a four-string instrument much like the ukulele. It was always my dream to learn to play it beyond the three or four chords, which is now happening through the RMUO. Having retired from school administration, I now have the time to pursue my dreams. It is my hope that besides Justus, the youngest member of the orchestra, more of my grandchildren will take up the ukulele.
Self-Appointed Chief Sarcasm Officer for RMUO. Hobbies include annoying people (occasionally with her uke) and brewing coffee with coffee. Stunt doubles on the weekend. Naturally and artificially flavored. Do not store near fire, flame, or sparks.
I started playing ukulele in 2016. Originally, my musical goal was to learn piano, but I couldn’t afford to impulse-buy a keyboard. While I saved up to buy some keys, I picked up the ukulele and could not stop playing. Pianos are super heavy anyway. Imagine trying to bring a piano on a plane or on a hike. That just is not going to happen, ever. Now my goals are to learn how to play without staring at the fretboard and start recording videos!
I’m a newbie to the Orchestra and having a wonderful time playing in it. I grew up playing guitar, but haven’t touched anything for about 15 years until I got hooked on the uke earlier this year…it goes everywhere with me! When I’m not playing, I study German at Metro, and volunteer with the school and botany programs down at South Platte Park. I retired from an IT job several years ago. Oh yeah…I hike and snowshoe and love to ride my bike around Denver, or up on the trails around Frisco and Copper, too. My husband of 38 years is a high school German teacher, and we tend to end up there in July.
My dad had a ukulele when I was a kid that he would goof around on and sing to my brother and me when we were kids. Last October he gave me that soprano Aloha Royal. I wanted to learn to play and saw a Ukulele Workshop advertised in the City of Lakewood Connections magazine. It was a one night, two-hour class taught by Gary. I learned tons and signed up for the next two class. I was hooked. I gave my parents a Christmas on the ukulele holiday concert playing songs I learned in class. I have enjoyed the orchestra and the people who play. When not playing the ukulele, I swim with a master’s swim team, read and enjoy road trips with my family to National Parks.
Kati O. (aka Kate the Great)
I played an electric organ as a munchkin, and played second chair alto saxophone all through middle school but not beyond. A few years ago I got an ever-increasing itch to play an instrument again. I like dedicating my birthdays to trying new things so there you have it – for my 45th birthday I registered me and my li’l red ukelele for the Intro to Uke class, then the Christmas class and here I am now at RMUO. My cheeks usually hurt from laughing when I leave orchestra on Sundays and I improve my plinking and plonking each week so I keep coming back! I was gifted with a real uke recently but will keep my little red one for road trips and camping.
Hi, I’m Katie. I have a degree in Music from Knox College (Galesburg, IL) with voice being my predominant instrument. Although I’m not currently pursuing a career in music, it will always be an enjoyable pastime for me and I’m glad to have a new musical outlet. I wanted to learn the ukulele so I could have something to play to accompany my singing, and found the ukulele to be more approachable than a guitar and smaller than a piano. Now, in RMUO, I’m having fun learning to make my ukulele sing all on its own.
Good day my name is Kelly. I’m finding this ukulele journey quite mystical, quite magical. Come join us!!!!!
Retired from Auraria Campus Library ~ Genealogy student and volunteer photographer for website “Find A Grave” ~ Introduced to 4-chord ukulele songs at Centre College Ky during annual Spring Sing event “many long years ago” ~ Reintroduced Feb. 2012 via classes at Lakewood Cultural Center ~ Interested in putting together a personal family history web site that incorporates appropriate ukulele music.
There were a couple of things I wanted to do with my life in addition to a Bachelor’s degree in social studies, a Master’s degree in non-profit management, directing a foundation, and raising four children. Those things included learning to watercolor paint (I now teach watercolor painting) and learning to play a musical instrument. I’ve had this ukulele for three years now and you’d think I would get good at it, but I realize you have to handle it to get good — just looking at the case and tuning it now and then does nothing for becoming proficient. So, after learning to play Mahjong and starting my own book club of mostly non-fiction reading, I am determined this is the time. I saw Jake Shimabukuro in Maui and decided to buy another ukulele — a tenor. I’ve played a little with the group at the condo we stay in in Maui for a couple of years. Now with two ukuleles and joining the Rocky Mountain Ukulele Orchestra I am practicing more and more every week. I hope to continue to contribute to the harmony of the group. Keep picking and strumming!
I have always loved music, dance and art. I learned how to play piano and the flute a bit, but I always wanted to play guitar. So when I saw the ukulele classes, I had to try it and I love it. It’s definitely a fun challenge and the people are great. I am also into water color and ceramic sculpture. Thank you Gary for making the uke possible for all of us!
A few years ago, a retiring middle school music teacher boasted that she could teach anyone how to play an instrument.I asked if this included people who were tone deaf.“No such thing,” she scoffed and asked if I’d like to learn the clarinet.I demurred, explaining that I’d always been partial to stringed instruments (except for violins – they give me nightmares, much like “The 10,000 Fingers of Dr T”).I broke my wrist shortly afterwards, and while recovering at home noticed that a friend had posted something on FaceBook about Uke Fest.I asked him about it over lunch, explaining that I thought I’d like to learn how to play an instrument.He looked at me and said, “Marie, I think that even you could learn to play the ukulele.” To make a long story short, as soon as the cast came off my arm, I drove to a music store and bought my first ukulele along with a book and DVD on how to teach yourself to play (not a good idea unless you already know how to play an instrument).Fortunately, I discovered workshops at Swallow Hill and the Lakewood Cultural Center, which led to classes at Lakewood, which led to the Rocky Mountain Ukulele Orchestra.What I’ve learned is that my cat loves C chords, I love learning and playing an instrument, and ukulele players are a really cool bunch of people to hang with.Oh, and since this is supposed to be a short bio – I am a veteran, retired from the State of Colorado, and am engrossed in my encore career as a vocational rehabilitation counselor at the VA.
I have worked at the Rocky Mountain News/Denver Post since my first day out of high school in 1974. I will let you do the math. I have a 19-year-old daughter Brooke and a 17-year-old son Joey. I am an avid activity freak. I ski, sled, windsurf (water and ice), paddleboard, mountain bike, golf, fish and most recently play pickle ball! I started playing the ukulele in December 2012. My daughter thinks at times I am immature. I prefer to think of myself as “young at heart.”
I have never had a music lesson in my life and I cannot read music…..and I am already old. So the ukulele MUST be for absolutely everyone! I am slowly bringing the music out of me through the ukulele, the music I never knew was there. It comes from the strings of my heart.
I played piano (badly) as a child of 7. Played French Horn in Jr. High (badly, though my mother recently said, “Mr. Crooks – the band teacher – was so disappointed when you gave up the French Horn.” I said, “No Mom, he was relieved!”). I picked up the guitar by watching PBS as a teenager, and never got past the easy chords, but still play it on occasion in my storytelling gigs. My friend, Kari Pokorny, also in the Orchestra, tried for a year, and finally got me to join in the Fall of 2013. All I can say is, the uke is more fun, and doesn’t hurt my fingers as much as the guitar! I work in public media during the day. My hobbies outside of the uke, are storytelling, singing, and writing.
I sang in choirs and musicals and played the piano from age 6 through high school. In college, I (mediocre-ly) taught myself guitar to accompany myself on folk songs. (Yes, it was the 60s.) During graduate school and a career of more than 30 years in academia, music in my life shrank to merely singing along with the radio and an occasional role in community musical theater. As retirement loomed, I wandered back to the piano briefly (not all that good anymore) and wondered whether I still had my college guitar (couldn’t find it). Jake Shimabukuro’s playing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah sent me racing to buy a tenor uke. I discovered Gary’s Intro to Uke class and haven’t looked back. Beyond music, I volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center and as a natural resources monitor for Lakewood and Jeffco Open Space. I also write a bi-monthly nature column for Colorado Central and am co-editing the 2nd Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas.g.
- Andrea L.
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Sometime around 1976, I dropped out of the elementary school honor band because I didn’t want to carry my trumpet to junior high school. Mom was mad at me for 30 years because of that stunt. Before she graduated to heaven, she did sneak out of her retirement community with her boyfriend to see an RMUO performance, and I think she finally forgave me. For one semester in college, I tried playing classical guitar. Again, quit. Finally, in 1998 we rebuilt the family heirloom plant stand, also known as our 1870’s vintage birdcage piano, and I began taking lessons. I was lucky to study with Julii Dunsmore. Turns out 88 keys and ten fingers is a pretty cool thing to bring together. In 2003, I found a ukulele in a local antique store and I paid $35 for it. Mostly it sat on a shelf. At the time YouTube was started, I remember searching for some “how to play” videos and there were only 83 tagged “ukulele.” I was pretty sure I was the only person in Colorado playing our little instrument. In the years since then, the ukulele has exploded in popularity, changes the world daily, and gave me the opportunity to become a composer and teach a little music myself. I’ve been personally assisted on my road to ukuleleism by the amazing James Hill, Aaron Keim, my First Elf Debbie Turner, and every ukulele festival ever held in Denver. I was lucky to be included as an auditor at the 2013 International Conducting Institute at Denver University taught by Lawrence Golan, David Effron, and Bahman Saless. I’m also a member of the Guitar Foundation of America and will play in the guitar orchestra at the international competition and convention in Denver this summer 2016. Along with the others on this page, I help create and re-create this orchestra every week.