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Internationally acclaimed teachers and musicians make Milwaukie their one Portland-area stop

For those who love playing the ukulele, having the internationally acclaimed duo of Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel teaching two workshops at the Milwaukie Center is a "huge deal," said Eileen Stapp, a member of the MC Jammers, a ukulele group that meets once a week at the center.

Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel on the cover of Ukulele magazine."They are gifted musicians and singers and their skill at teaching is outstanding," she added.

'Walking juke box'

The workshops will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24, at the center, 5440 S.E. Kellogg Creek Drive, in Milwaukie. Chee's Boot Camp 101 will take place from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m., and Maisel will teach Doo-Wop Till You Drop from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Attendees can sign up for one class for $30 or both of the workshops for $50; a short performance will follow each class. Visit Chee and Maisel's website at CheeMaisel.com to purchase tickets.

Both classes are meant for a variety of players, from beginning to intermediate, but Boot Camp 101 "will focus more on exercises and technique," Chee said.

"In Doo-Wop Till You Drop, we'll be going over a variety of popular progressions, including the 'Doo-Wop' one. When you learn that progression, you will be able to play hundreds of songs," Maisel said.

"After we go over that one, we will also cover 12 bar blues, a modern pop progression, as well as a variety of others. You'll be surprised that with just a few chords, you can be a walking juke box," she said.

"The idea behind this class is to get you playing songs without music, and to throw in a little bit of theory. You'll walk away understanding what it means when someone says 'Let's play a 2-5-1 progression,'" Maisel added.

World travelers

Chee and Maisel, who married in 2015, travel all over the world teaching and performing.

"I went on a ukulele cruise to Alaska with them last summer, and they gave lessons during the day and performed at night," Stapp said.

"They are warm, accepting, fun and very supportive of any level [of playing]. They challenge you and give you material to work on that stretches you, but that is how you get better," she added.

Chee and Maisel will attend the Ukulele Festival of Scotland on June 9, and will lead another ukulele cruise to Alaska on Aug. 24. The Milwaukie Center will be their only Portland metro area appearance.

Chee lived in Eugene for 15 years before moving to San Diego, and said he loves visiting the Pacific Northwest.

"There's great ukulele groups in Oregon that we try to visit every time we are in the area. One of our favorite groups in the area is the Portland Ukulele Association and they are the ones we contacted initially, and they got us in touch with the Milwaukie Center," he said.

"We are looking forward to seeing new faces as well as reconnecting with friends and fans that we've made over the years. It's amazing to see everyone grow as musicians and to see how they've utilized their ukuleles in new ways," Maisel said.

She added, "We are excited that the ukulele is still reaching new people and is introducing music to people who have been too busy or intimidated by instruments in the past."

MC Jammers

Claire Ishii has led the MC Jammers since it began five years ago and said she will be taking both workshops on May 24.

"They are going to be fun and will teach me things I can use in the Thursday group, so I can help spread the joy," she said.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel, below right, taught workshops to cruise passengers on last year's ukulele cruise to Alaska.The jammers have outgrown two rooms at the Milwaukie Center, and now the 30-member group plays in a big, open space to the side of the dining room, Ishii said.

Why is the ukulele so popular?

"It's an easy instrument to play, and the chords you learn in the beginning are quite simple," she said.

"We play and sing all kinds of songs, and it is a social event. It keeps our brains learning, and we enjoy each other's company," she added.

Sherrie Campbell, another member of the MC Jammers, said she will also be taking both workshops and has taken classes from the pair before.

"Craig shows you how to hold the instrument properly, so you don't hurt yourself. His workshop isn't just about music, he teaches all the things involved with playing the instrument, both musically and physically," she said.

What she likes best about Maisel's teaching style is that she uses a projection so that students can look up and see what she is doing, and this "helps with a large class."

Stapp will be in Ireland visiting relatives on May 24, and so will not be able to take the workshops. However, she recommends both classes to players with a wide range of skill levels.

She added, "This is a wonderful opportunity at the local level and an outstanding opportunity to learn from the best."

Celebrate the ukulele!

What: Internationally acclaimed teachers and musicians Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel will teach two ukulele workshops

When: Boot Camp 101 with Chee, from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m., and Doo-Wop Till You Drop, with Maisel, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24

Where: The Milwaukie Center, 5440 S.E. Kellogg Creek Drive

Cost: $30 for one workshop; $50 for both

Tickets and more info: Visit CheeMaisel.com

Online ukulele lessons: Visit artistworks.com/ukulele to learn more about online ukulele lessons with Chee and Maisel

Bio: To learn more about Chee and Maisel, visit cheemaisel.com/bio/

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