February – How Are You Doing Finding Your Ukulele Moment?

In an August 2011 article, I challenged you to “Find Your Ukulele Moment.” Click here to read that original article. The article was based on members of my book club challenging me when I said that I can teach anyone to play the ukulele in five minutes. Five members who had never done anything in music took me up on the challenge and here is a picture of one of the women – they all found their ukulele moment.

In the 2011 article I used the ukulele as a metaphor for trying new things in your life and getting out of old ruts. This could be a new hobby, running, music, buying a bicycle, or whatever. A number of years ago a planner I knew said he and his wife decided that they would try something new every summer which led them to lots of interesting events.

In my case, I have had a number of ukulele moments since 2011, two of them actually involving the ukulele.

  • Ancestry
    I got interested in ancestry and wrote a 300-page book (a ukulele moment) about my wife and my family history. Our focus was not only the normal listing of relatives and dates but finding interesting stories about relatives. This week I received an interesting email from someone I didn’t know. My name had showed up in her research on Ancestry.Com based on my wife’s maiden name. We started comparing notes and research and found many cousins we had never heard about, some of them living a few miles from where my wife grew up. This new cousin has helped fill in a number of holes in my research.In my book I wrote about my wife’s grandfather who poured coffee into his saucer and drank it from the saucer. Guess what? Her father always did the same thing.
  • Ukuleles
    Since 2011 my actual ukulele interest has opened new doors. I now belong to three ukulele clubs; one meets weekly with normally 60 people. I have trouble not buying new ukuleles and currently have 10, the last one from New Zealand.My granddaughter is 10 and in the fourth grade. I discovered that the school was given 60 ukuleles that were boxed up and not being played. I volunteered to assist a teacher who would start a class. When I got to the school I was told that I was to be the instructor, not an assistant. I had never taught children but agreed to give it a try; a ukulele moment). I now teach a class of 30 fourth graders once a week that includes my granddaughter. See the picture of the ukes ready for the class. I can’t show you the class as it is against school policy.

Next, the other two fourth grade teachers heard about this and also wanted to get started. I split the classes in two to meet once a week for 25 minutes. That means last week I had six classes in one day – a bigger ukulele moment than I wanted. So, I found two more teachers, so we can each just have one class. None of us have taught children before – three good ukulele moments.

  • APA Session
    I find it difficult anymore to get a presentation approved for an APA conference. I suggested a session for my new book, What Kind Of A Planning Director Will You Be This Year, for the New Orleans conference but have been turned down. Our California Chapter’s conference is in San Diego this year and I have proposed a similar session but with a twist. I will illustrate the key book concepts playing ukulele songs. I haven’t gotten a response yet. Maybe APA is not yet ready for its ukulele moment.
  • Winter Olympics
    The South Korea Olympics reminded me of another ukulele moment. I wrote a book, What Your Planning Professors Forgot to Tell You, some 18 years ago. Out of the blue a South Korea publisher contacted me to do a translated version for sale in Korea. It has been published as you can see by the cover – feels like a ukulele moment. The English and Korean versions are still for sale.

So, readers, get going – find your own ukulele moment(s).

The Management Doctor 

Reader Response

I did read that article in 2011, and had been thinking of taking up the ukulele around that time.  After practicing for a couple years, my ukulele moment came at our annual planning director’s conference at Lake Chelan in 2014 (you had been to this conference a few years earlier). I decided that if I was going to get better, I needed to get in front of a crowd and play and sing. I worked it out so that at the end of an awards dinner, the guy speaking would invite me up. I had hidden my ukulele under the speaker’s podium, and nobody had any idea what Joe was calling me up for. I pulled out the ukulele and told the 85 people in attendance I had never played in front of a crowd but I had a special song for the group. I took the Grateful Dead song “Friend of the Devil” and changed the lyrics to be about the job of the planning director, and at the end of the song, got a standing ovation (it did not hurt that I named a few of the directors who were present in the song).  I could have quit right there because it would never get any better than that. However, I have been doing it every year at the conference ever since, and did a couple songs at the Washington APA conference last fall under the “Fast, Funny and Passionate” category. Unfortunately they scheduled me for the first 10 minutes of that session which also happened to be during the last 30 minutes of the Ethics CM credits session so there were only a handful of planners in the hall that would have easily held 300 people. So be careful what you wish for, Paul. If it would help, I do have a song I can share with you where all the lyrics are out of the glossary of the PSRC’s Vision 2040 regional growth strategy set to a Billy Joel tune.

Here are a few of the songs I have been using within the last year:

  • I Am The City Planner – I did this one at the planning director’s conference last year
  • We Didn’t Start the Jargon – I have never played this one before a crowd, but it is the one I mentioned from the Vision 2040 glossary
  • New Code in Town – Our code enforcement supervisor is retiring soon and I played this one for him
  • DADU Cottage In My Backyard – I played this one at the State APA conference last year to a nearly empty huge hall
  • Marijuana Desperado – I also played this one at APA, a few more planners filtered into the hall as I played this one and enjoyed it. When I did this one at a planning directors conference about 3 years ago I had another standing ovation.

Allan Giffin

Songs for Paul Zucker