Jazz ukulele workshop puts a twist on standards
Before heading off to Uke University in Bend, with 50 workshops presented by world-class ukulele musicians, Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel will teach an introduction to jazz ukulele workshop from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 28, at the Milwaukie Center, 5440 S.E. Kellogg Creek Drive. To purchase $30 tickets, visit cheemaisel.com/portland-workshops.
Chee and Maisel, who married in 2015, travel all over the world teaching and performing.
"In the workshop, I'll go over a few standard progressions, showing folks that you can make the chords as hard or as easy as you'd like," Maisel said. The workshop is appropriate for advanced beginners, including people who have a knowledge of basic chords.
"However, even if you're more advanced, you'll still gain a lot from this class, and you'll make the chord transitions a lot faster," she said.
The class also will cover exercises to keep participants' fingers nimble as they make their way through the different progressions.
As for the music itself, Maisel said attendees will play songs from "The Great American Songbook," with classics like "Sentimental Reasons" and "Honeysuckle Rose."
Chee and Maisel have taught workshops at the Milwaukie Center before, and Maisel described it as an excellent location for teaching because the rooms are always set up in advance and the staff is welcoming.
"We are very happy to be coming back and can't wait to see everyone," Maisel said.
The center has a long-standing ukulele group called the MC Jammers, which Claire Ishii has led since the group began six years ago.
While she has been to many ukulele festivals and workshops, she has never taken a jazz ukulele class.
"This intro class will present me with new chord progressions and techniques to help improve my playing, which I may be able to work on with others from our weekly uke jams at the Milwaukie Center," Ishii said.
"What I like about these two teachers is how personable and dedicated they both are. They want the class to concentrate on what's being shown, so they don't offer handouts at the workshop, which could become a distraction," she said.
Instead, Chee and Maisel "provide their students with access to their online instructional videos, so they can practice at home at their own speed and repeat the lessons over and over in their spare time," Ishii said.
Former Ardenwald resident Sherrie Campbell has taken many workshops from Chee and Maisel and said she appreciates Maisel's use of a projection screen so that students can look up and see where the notes are.
Ishii said she is delighted to give local uke players the opportunity to take a workshop from Chee and Maisel, two much-sought-after instructors.
"Craig and Sarah provide instruction at many ukulele festivals and camps throughout this country and worldwide," she said.
Workshops like these can run into many hundreds of dollars for registration, travel, room and board.
"Having them offer to come to our own backyard with this reasonably priced workshop just shows how supportive they are of the ukulele community," she said.
Campbell, who is a member of the MC Jammers, said Chee and Maisel are excellent teachers whose workshops often sell out right away.
She attributes the popularity of ukuleles to the fact that they're easy and fun to play.
Campbell added, "You can learn three chords and play practically any song ever made, and ukes lend themselves to every kind of music from classical and jazz to bluegrass."
What: Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel will lead Intro to Jazz Ukulele
When: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, June 28
Where: The Milwaukie Center, 5440 S.E. Kellogg Creek Drive
Register: To sign up for this course, visit cheemaisel.com/portland-workshops. For more info, call the Milwaukie Center at 503-653-8100.
Online: Learn more about Chee and Maisel at CraigandSarah.com.