KERESÉS
2016-12-01

Click here for the Hungarian translation.

- For those, who don't know, who you are, how would you introduce yourself in a few words?

- I'm James Hill, lifelong learner, teacher and ukulele player. I'm a new Dad, I write songs, I travel a lot, I love peanut butter and I hang out at The Ukulele Way.

- You spent November 2016 in the UK on tour. How frequent do you visit Europe?

- I'm in Europe 2-3 times a year. Sometimes for teaching, sometimes for concerts. Often, it's a bit of both!

- As I see, wherever you travel, you always do ukulele workshops. Do you consider yourself more a teacher or a performer?

- That's a very difficult question! I ask myself that all the time. Both could be full-time jobs. I have dedicated myself to both teaching and performance. In my heart I feel like an artist first and foremost. But even that doesn't clarify the issue entirely; I mean, even when I teach I try to teach artfully.

- Some time ago I saw somebody referring to you in connection to one of your videos as their favorite "Ukuhero". Do you get that a lot?

- Um, no. That's the first time I've heard that word!

- How did you end up with the ukulele in the first place?

- I started in school along with all my peers. It was just another subject. At some point in my mid-teens I became obsessed with it.

- You are seen playing many ukes. Do you have a (emotionally, sound- or otherwise) favorite one?

- I can't say that I have one favourite. The fun part is choosing the right "flavour" of uke for any given piece of music. Some of my favourites: my Mike DaSilva spruce-top tenor and my collection of Mya-Moes: two baritones, a six-string and a resonator slide uke.

- You also play the fiddle, does that somehow relate to the uke?

- Not really. Which is why I like going back-and-forth between the two; it keeps things fresh.

- Years ago, you made the album "A Flying Leap", which was purely instrumental; and then you grew a beard and started singing. What made you expand your territories?

Ha ha! I'm pretty restless when it comes to my own music. I'm always seeking, always longing for new sounds, new ways to express myself through music. I got to a point where I felt that my instrumental music couldn't deliver the message I wanted to convey. I needed words for that. And a beard.

- You also wrote and co-authored a series of books on learning and teaching the ukulele. Could you tell me about the work you did there?

- Ukulele in the Classroom is a collaboration between Chalmers Doane and I. Chalmers' students became my teachers, making Chalmers is my "musical grandfather" in a sense. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to combine my new ideas about pedagogy with his lifetime of teaching experience. The method uses the ukulele as a vehicle for music literacy, which is the way I was taught. I've been very lucky to have had excellent ukulele teachers and mentors: Chalmers Doane, Peter Luongo, Jamie Thomas, Bonnie Smith, Kimo Hussey, just to name a few.

- The Ukulele Way, your site for self-learners is up and running almost three years now. Did it meet the expectations you had in mind when you started it?

- Yes. The idea was to create a virtual classroom in which students all over the world could connect with one another as they worked through a structured methodology. The Ukulele Way is entirely focused on one thing: the art of solo ukulele. In other words, students learn how to play melody, chords and rhythm at the same time on one ukulele. Learning the solo style of playing is a wonderful musical, emotional and intellectual journey but it can be a lonely path. I think The Ukulele Way goes a long way to connecting people who are walking that path so that they feel a sense of community even though the focus of the lessons is solo performance. It's the best of both worlds.

- Seems that you do many different kinds of work; just recently, you were the producer of the new album of your wife Anne. How was that different from "just" making the music?

- I really like the role of producer; it's something I'd like to do more often. When I was a teenager I would "produce" tracks for my friends. Just for fun. When I'm the producer on a project it takes me back to that time, when music was just for fun and the possibilities were endless.

- You teach others, but who do you learn from, if anybody?

- I'm always learning. I'm constantly picking up things from peers, colleagues, students and other performers. It never ends.

- Obviously you practice a lot. How much do you play on a daily average?

- Being a new Dad I don't have much time to practise the way I used to. During my most intense times of growth and discovery as a ukulele player (when I was in my early 20s), I would practise an average of two hours a day. Sometimes a lot more, but that's an average. Being consistent is the key. "Binge practising" is counter-productive.

- Any wise words to share?

- Listen to great music. It's the most enjoyable and most overlooked component of a practise routine. Listening to great performances by great performers is the only way to internalize style. Notes, rhythms and harmonies are nothing without style!

- Thank you!

- You're welcome. Uke on!




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