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S1E2 – Teaching/Learning Ukulele on ZOOM – Kevin Carroll

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What’s it like to switch from a huge roster of in-person ukulele classes to teaching everything online? In this episode Brad is joined by Austin-based Kevin Carroll to break down how he’s been adapting his teaching style and what he recommends for new virtual students.

Episode resources:
Kevin’s website
Hawaiʻi Island Ukulele Retreat
Neumann KM184
The Art of the Ensemble for Ukulele and Bass


BB: Aloha! Welcome to The Live Ukulele Podcast, episode number two.

Today I’m featuring a guest who is based out of Austin, Texas and is one of the busiest people in the ukulele world that I know. He’s probably put in more hours teaching in the past couple years than most of us put together. His name’s Kevin Carroll. He’s got a fabulous book of arrangements and has done a lot of kind of revolutionary things for teaching with a classroom workshop that he’s brought lots of attention to that is the Ukestra. In which the group plays arrangements in an ensemble style where you’re sort of copying, say, maybe what a string quartet might do in an ukulele classroom setting. And he’s created lots of arrangements for these.

I had the chance to listen into one of his classes and actually be one of the parts when we were teaching together a couple years ago. I can’t remember which year that was, but we were teaching at the Hawaiʻi Island Ukulele Retreat. We actually roomed together which is part of the reason that I’ve come to know and love Kevin as much as I have is we’re kind of like long-lost brothers and that’s the last time I saw him, unfortunately. Met this great guy and then haven’t seen him since but we’ve been staying in touch on Zoom and via phone calls ever since.

And every time I talk to him he’s doing something new or he’s packed just nine to five with ukulele lessons and he’s been really doing some great things for the ukulele community in Austin, Texas. So gonna talk story with him a little bit and find out how he’s adapting and coping with the changes that COVID has brought to the ukulele teaching scene. I know he’s moved online. I can’t wait to hear how he has changed things and grown into sort of this new model of ukulele instruction.

BB: Well, welcome to the show, Kevin!

KC: Thank you so much, Brad. I’m excited to see you and be here, be part of it.

BB: Yeah! How have things been from a teaching perspective out in Austin, Texas?

KC: Well, you know I don’t know if it’s any different here than it would be anywhere else because, you know, I haven’t had a human being in in my house since early March.

First week of March. And that’s been my business so um, it’s all Zoom. And in that way I might you know I could be in uh in Oessa in the Ukraine I could be in Odessa, Texas I could be wherever. So it you know it’s just been a a radical change getting used to that. I think is so many teachers just like what is Zoom? How does Zoom work? You know, what is original sound? You know, um how do I disable echo cancellation? Those kinds of questions um and then then realizing wow this works pretty well in a lot of ways. You know it’s it but it’s just been a wild ride all around. In my teaching environment I don’t um, I have everybody mute so it’s really weird it’s this like the boy in the bubble or kind of like you fell down the well kind of thing you know every once in a while I just have to have people unmute and make a lot of noise, really, short bursts just to make me feel normalized. I didn’t realize how much information I got through my ears from teaching. And it just it told me so much. I’ll suffice it to say it’s a huge adjustment.

How is it going up there in Hawaiʻi? Down there, over there?

BB: We’re hanging in there. I mean, can’t complain. Our numbers are better than elsewhere, but it’s still, you know, knife’s edge a little bit as far as I’m concerned not much has changed in my business kind of model. Still we’re running the website and making videos and doing that kind of a thing. I didn’t have to implement any changes really to adapt which is why I was sort of curious to get on here and talk with you and really dive into what you’ve been doing differently and to kind of hear about that.

KC: Yeah. Yeah it’s and it’s such a wild thing because I think everybody it’s just leveled the playing field in a way you know. I feel for so many of the folks I know that like their whole thing was that they were performers and they would go to these festivals and they would do like 12, 15, 20, 30 festivals in a year. It was like every weekend, you know? I feel for them and they would kind of teach, but they’re really performers. Who would think that teaching ukulele would be stable at all, you know? But I found it to be fairly stable through this so far. And I know where you know I think, what is it now, it’s the middle of July and so many people thought, “oh it’ll be over by summer” and stuff, you know. And I believe that, but um I think summer like 2022 is what I’m shooting on now. It’s been really cool in the way, in the sense that um like I can teach people anywhere and so that’s expanded and I’ve had a lot of folks to be, “oh I wish I lived in Austin, you know I would love to take your classes.” And I’m like “Well, hey, now you can!” So that’s been really fun having people from different countries. You know did all over the continent and it’s been really cool expanding in that way, and I feel hugely fortunate and you know, certainly blessed that the ʻukulele community is one of the more generous communities out there. So yeah, it’s been good. Just a radical adjustment. And I’m trying um to just really unplug and go slowly because it just doesn’t seem like you want to make a radical adjustment. You know, because it’s nobody knows what’s going on or what’s gonna happen. I went from teaching 10 classes a week in my home to now doing two classes a week on Zoom.

BB: Are you teaching the same amount of folks?

KC: About. Yeah, it’s interesting. I still have my ukulele orchestra and my Celtic ukulele group and you know just going to keep those going. And may add some more in the fall, but it’s been you know just such a seamless transition because I think, I don’t know, 15 or 20 people reached out and we’re just like “Hey, could I do private lessons do you know on Zoom?” And I find that Zoom is great for a one-on-one lesson. For me. The way I teach and what I’m doing. The groups? It’s a you know, I’d be happy to tell you what I do in there if we want to get into the nitty-gritty of it all. Not that, well, I think it’s great. I don’t know what else to do, you know? And you know me, I just kind of like make up whatever comes into my mind, you know, and you get what you get. Um, it’s kind of chef’s choice over here. But yeah, it’s been a heck of a ride.

How about you? Has your teaching changed a lot?

BB: No, I’m still on pretty much the same path. I’m working on putting together some video courses, so I’m not necessarily teaching live and in person, though I did a couple live stream lessons kind of early on when this happened to try and give people a little something to
do, myself included. But mainly just working on stuff that will have, you know, that I won’t need to continue curating and providing so it’s like here’s the course, if you have this specific set of questions, check this out.

KC: Yeah. Now that’s great and I’m, you know, I’m learning from you, Brad, and following in your footsteps and, you know, looking to have a more online model and get into more recording, more video. And um it’s all again …it’s all what else could one do? Yeah, you know um it’s hard to figure it out. But man it was you know I feel like my life is probably more like yours now in the system it’s like it feels like I’ve been on island time for like four months. Wearing shorts every day, flip-flops. Oh, I put on a real shirt for for this, but you know it’s like… I’ve really appreciated the extra time and the extra space and the slowing and deepening of things. And there’s something very musical about that. And creative and spiritual even. And I’ve noticed you know, since I’m supposed to talk about teaching, one of the things is some people just hate the virtual experience or really had a hard time changing, acclimating. And there’s always some attrition when there’s a radical shift. And, at the same time, I’ve noticed some of my students, some of whom I’ve had for years, made more progress in like three weeks than they did in three years. And it’s very interesting. You know, and people having the comfort of being in their own homes is one thing. Not having the pressure of performing. You know, in one of my classes you gotta play. You know, that’s if we’re gonna play, you make the music, you know. I just try to tell you how to do it. I’ll show you, but yeah….

BB: So how are you handling in the Zoom classes that kind of interaction with the students? Are you able to give any back and forth critiques or how are you, especially your workshop classes, how are you formatting those?

KC: Yeah. It’s so um you know I feel like, uh here I am, you know, Willy Wonka is going to give away all the secrets to the chocolate factory here! Um yeah. I would probably preface this with: you know, please don’t try this because it’s kind of crazy! But I think like many people, you know, I sat in on a couple of classes here or there just to see what that felt like. You know, you talk about a gated community? This is a muted community so that I can teach.

And that’s another thing! There’s no noodling. That was the first thing I got back is people’s like “I noodled the whole time! Who cares?” I’m like great, you know? And it’s like, “I’m a noodler, but I’m just shamed for noodling” and it’s like, “I’m muted! I can noodle!” And somebody else um got back to me early on and just said you know, I couldn’t keep up and so I was always a couple things behind, I was kind of listening, paying attention, watching the stuff but you know I would then you’d have these pauses and talk and work with other people then I’d catch up and said in a real class that would not have happened. And so that everybody um gets to choose their own adventure so to speak. I guess I should really answer your question: besides muting um you know it’s just so weird. So too, like in the Celtic class, I have all the files in Guitar Pro and and so I’ve expanded everything from just being like a tune to like counter points – baritone chords so that it it could be more differentiated and appeal to more people and more people could find something to play. You know some of those tunes are really, really challenging uh for just about anybody I would think um but to find you know that’s a more elemental part of it. So everybody gets to pick their their parts with that. There’s something existentially, abstractly, beautiful in that we are playing music together at the same time, but we cannot hear each other. In that way it’s like a Kafka love story. You know it’s like um which I don’t think he wrote love stories, but it’s like um you know there’s a, I don’t know, it just seems… It’s bittersweet and just radical. It’s like next level playing, but it’s heartening to know that this group of people in real time is playing this song together.

I will end up playing, you know, the tune sometimes just by myself, or sometimes with the accompaniment of the software. You know, here it is at this tempo and the other thing, you know – I don’t need to demonstrate this to you, but I will anyway – that is so wonderful about Zoom is to show people fingerings. You know, I get right in the camera from various angles how the thumbs working. All of that stuff – that’s huge! And you know I know early on, James Hill, his first words on the equation were, “Watch out for teacher burnout.” And you know, after the first or second week of this I was like: wow I’m teaching two classes? It feels like I’m teaching 50 classes. But you adjust and you learn. I have to do a lot of different work. Luckily I’ve been a musician most my life so the work I’m doing is musical and so that’s good. You know, I would think it would be if a teacher were not a strong player… ah I that would be uh that’d be like a nightmare to me. But I just read a quote today it said, “Hell is filled with amateur musicians.” To lead a group in that way, in a sense everyone’s hearing me and so it’s a series of duets. Now the the other thing that I love to do and encourage people to do then is, “Hey, could you play, you know, the counterpoint part to Drowsy Maggie?” And then they get to play, I get to mute, I play with them, or I can more scan the room.

Other than wishing I had invested in Zoom, you know, about February um you know I did just keep you know that’s just the way all of this is is going. And I’m so thankful that they stepped in and with the generosity that they did with this platform. It’s not perfect for music. I have a feeling somebody’s gonna clean it up a little bit and our hope that happens and there’s a musical uh version of this. But it’s a trick to play and talk, even if you’re just with, you know, regular people, to actually play a tune kind of talk, narrate what you’re playing, and watch the room, and, you know, it used to be everyone’s noodling, oh everyone’s still noodling, but I can’t hear them so I can’t complain about that, but what I can complain about is everyone is late. And that is the other thing with Zoom and I mean right now I barely know what month it is, let alone you know what day; it is it’s just gotten so surreal. But um then you also have to do the you know hosting job. So it’s just very, very different in that way. But I’m having fun with it. And I think people… it’s so heartening to just see, you know, a page of people’s faces smiling and the community that is actually even developing in these groups. Yeah it’s cool.

I’m working on my next book. I think that that was the answer to that?

BB: Well, that’s great because one of the big concerns that I’ve kind of had I guess for you and other people in your shoes is that you’re going to lose out on a lot of different qualities that a in-person lesson provides that otherwise you’re not going to get it at this time. But it sounds like you’re you’re learning how to do it and thriving, which is fabulous to hear.

KC: It’s been cool. And I like, you know, I think as you get older you start to see these patterns, and I don’t know, it took me this many patterns but just to go “You know what, every 10 years I just kind of reinvent myself.” That’s just what I do. This came along just right at the right time. Like, I’ve been doing uke for almost 10 years and it kind of wakes me up in a way that I enjoy. You know there have been a lot of upsides to this. Like I said, you know, seeing some students really flourish in it. The other thing that I find by expanding this play like you know in this Celtic group, I’ve got people in in the Northwest, you know, around Seattle and up in that area somebody in Australia, Massachusetts, Maryland scattered around Texas, California… Just all over, but I find you know regionally it’s like a festival would be. Everybody has a different way of thinking and bringing that… It makes the group stronger having more diversity in that way. And I find that the questions people ask are really great. Also finding that being able to record these in Zoom is awesome and really valuable for folks to see the demonstrations when I remember to do it.

I had somebody – I probably shouldn’t say this – but um I had – I couldn’t believe this, because you know I like to eat food as much as the next person – I mean I really enjoy food it’s great – there was a guy chewing food for 90 minutes on the screen. And there was just like there’s the.. can I mute the eating of this? You know, his uke was like… There was like a tv tray and it was just, it was like, wow okay, but at the same time, you know, people got to eat. And he probably learned something. But yeah, it’s been interesting. I think it works well enough and I feel like I’m uh strong enough with it now to actually try to do something with it in the fall and do some specific kinds of workshops and just open them up to the world and see what happens. And maybe do that that 3 a.m workshop I always wanted to do for the people in Great Britain or something.

You know for me too, it’s just music is so very important, it’s so vital and um though it’s it’s not perfectly delivered right, now I don’t think it could be more well received or more well appreciated and that’s a heartening thing to be part of too. You know it’s really beautiful that people can do this at all. And I find, you know, I get those emails from people… I got one from somebody who’s just, you know, like kind of looking at, “You know I don’t really like the fingering you chose for the tablature of, you know, whatever well whatever so I came up with this. What do you think?” You know, and I look at him like that’s much better! You know, it’s like “this is great” and then, you know, yeah good job! And um and then you know it’s like get thanked for well… thanks for giving me something to do. You know and I feel like if there was ever a time where you could exercise academic rigor with people, it’s like right now. That’s exciting to me because who knows what’s on the other side of learning stuff.

BB: So you mentioned the second book. Could you please tell us how that is pronounced? Because I was thinking it was like “Oh, I’ve got got Kevin here, how am I going to introduce Kevin? You know, he has this long list of things that he’s done…”

KC: He’s got this book that I’m afraid to talk about! Um yeah, ukulele c-e-i-l-i-d-h – Ceilidh.

BB: I would never have gotten that!

KC: Nobody would get it unless you live in Wales, Ireland, maybe Great Britain or Scotland because it’s Gaelic! And this isn’t even… I think probably watered down spelling from, you know, 500 years ago.

BB: Ukulele Ceilidh.

KC: Yeah but over here people kind of say “ukulele.” Ukulele Ceilidh.

BB: So it works a little better

KC: Yeah um, if I had it to do over um i might not have called it that. Speaking of academic rigor, you know, get to teach some Gaelic… I have a Celtic background, you know, in my DNA. But yeah, that was my first book. …My second book …where is it… is I think, it’s harder to read but it’s easier to say: The Art of the Ensemble for Ukulele and Bass. This one came out maybe a year or so ago. I feel like that guy you know who uh just is like so could not be more out of time with his business ideas, you know. Like “Hey, I’m gonna just put everything I have into group ensemble music playing!” And then a pandemic happens. What are you going to do? But I just love this kind of playing where you just get single note lines, you know, and it all works together. And I spent a lot of time on all those arrangements…

BB: Well, I remember when we were in Hawi at the Hawaiʻi Island Ukulele Retreat that I sat in on one of your classes and it was so much so much fun. So what kind of pieces could people expect to find in there?

KC: Well let me tell you, Brad! In book one Dona Nobis Pachem, Santa Lucia, found a native American tune, a Navajo song, called Now I Walk in Beauty, a cool song based on a poem by Robert Burns called Flow Gently Sweet Afton, Largo from the New World Symphony by Dvorak, and a cool little tune called The Orchestra – some people know that “this is the orchestra,” and a uh kind of western style tune called the Wabash Cannonball. And it all has different skills, different levels kind of ukes one through four, um one being usually the melody the highest voice and the most difficult and then um bass parts that could be played on a u-bass or on a upright or electric, whatever. And yeah in book two it’s got Auld Lang Syne, Scarborough Fair, Go Down Moses, Gavat from Handel, a tune I wrote called Triplet Blues, Angels We Have Heard on High, and I Dream of Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair. Yeah, in book three I’m just about… I mean all the music’s done it’s just there’s, like, a little, you know, “shouldn’t the comma go here or there?” and that’ll have the song that we did together, that Chanson Triste – Sad Song by Tchaikovsky and Carol of the Bells. A little bit harder pieces, they’re culminating in Bach with Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and a Haydn piece and uh another piece that I wrote in that one and La Paloma, as well as a medley of Mexican tunes, which even has some mariachi style strumming in it.

BB: That’ll be fun

KC: Yeah!

BB: And so are there cds or audio files that go along with those at this point?

KC: It’s funny… There’s not!

BB: Boy, it seems like this is gonna be a great time for that.

KC: I want to make sure that nobody could ever hear this music! No, but you know the funny part of it is, I’ve got a computer uh what’s it called… interface, preamps, and all that stuff – converters and a Neumann km184 coming tomorrow. I figured what to do in a pandemic but learn to be an audio engineer and a videographer and get this stuff together and get it out there. Now I say that uh today on July 16th. Check back next July 16th and we’ll see how we’re doing! Hey, I would be thrilled if there were things available by the holidays. You know, by the end of the year beginning of next year, that would be great. I got one mic because I figured I should learn how to use one mic and then learn how to use two mics. But yeah, that is my next endeavor, is to make videos and audio files for all of this and kind of build a new home for that and following the footsteps of smart people like you. I can’t remember if you said this, did you say that did you call me the working man’s workaholic?

BB: I think so. If I didn’t before, I did pretty much say that in the intro!

KC: I love that. You know, because you know and I come from, you know, working class background it’s still you know and I would you know, I would look at it people, you know, like the uh Andrew Kitakis and James Hill, you know, as the thinking man’s workaholic, but um there’s a certain pride of being being part of the working class here. It does feel like you know a new thing for me to actually do this and be like “oh well, now it’s done.” And you know I could be sharpening my Gaelic or something, you know, while I’m teaching. So yeah it just seems really cool. Daunting, but um I’m excited, and also hopeful that that teaching could reach more people. But I want the quality of it to be high, so that’s why it may take… I would just imagine, based on everything I know about life, it’s gonna take… then it’s not gonna be like “god that was easy.” It was like a week! And uh recorded you know five albums and stuff. But yeah, I’d like to have albums available for it, but also have like a sonically enhanced website that just sounds good. You know, that you could hear the music, experience the music, play along with the music with quality sounds.

BB: Nice. So are you planning on doing like -1 tracks where people can step in and be be that part in the arrangement?

KC: I think that would be a possibility. Yeah, absolutely. Whatever I can figure out is what’s going to happen. Coming from the working class I have to you know I had an employee, I’d spent like a year and a half working on something and she figured out about 20 minutes and like “how did you do that?” She’s like, “Oh, I just Googled this and then there’s a tutorial for it.” Like I thought “Wow, that’s a good way!”

BB: Huh!

KC: I’m learning slowly.

BB: Oh that’s great. We’re all adapting.

KC: Yeah, it’s been it’s been fun. Just playing playing more. I find myself um because my life’s opened up a lot, I was probably over teaching there were times um you know yeah I mean I would… there was a few years it was just about 60 hour weeks of…

BB: Oh wow

KC: All geared toward teaching and there were times when it’s been like wow it’s been 20 weeks since I’ve taken a day off! So it’s opening up and I find that one of the cool things is that I just pick up an instrument and play music. And then that inherently feels good. And coming from a different place with that. So yeah I’m excited and and, believe it or not, so this will be, this next book will be my fourth book and I’m debating, maybe I should… we could have this debate right here! My internal debate is: do I do another book, or do I just put it on a website that has all the stuff? It’s like, do people really need books? I don’t know.

BB: I think people value the physical book, but there is a subset of people who will use and appreciate the ease of instant access, for sure. But honestly, I mean, I don’t get a whole lot… I know there are people who have held off buying some of my my books because they aren’t available in print, but for the most part I feel like, you know, it’s it’s so convenient to have it on your ipad… and everybody’s got some sort of device they can carry all their books around in their pocket with.

KC: Yeah. I’m just thinking about it because it’s like, I could like, for the next thing I’m trying to do with Celtic music is get all these arrangements. So it’d be like a real Celtic session where… it’s so cool because um some of it is played more like medieval renaissance music where it’s just melody and it might be rhythm with it, but there’s no um and it might be a chord, but it’s really just about melody um and it’s so cool. So you could play it that way, but then as the baroque counterpoint came along then that started being added to the tunes. So the tunes themselves are ancient, but the way they’ve been played has evolved and, like, trying to come up with a thing, “oh well here’s the counterpoint here’s this,” so you could play it so many different ways and it feels like, god in a book I could get like seven songs, on a website I could get like 300 songs, you know. Now I’ll probably do both. You talked me into it.

BB: So you’re talking about all this great content you’ve put out there. Where can people find out more about it or things like that. Where do they get your goods?

KC: has it all and that’s where I sell and teach and it’s really been my hub. It’s funny you know, being being a .net person. You know you’re the second person that had that idea on the planet.

BB: I wasn’t going to say anything!

KC: Yeah, and you know, there is a who’s a motivational speaker – not to say that I am not a motivation speaker, but uh is where you’re gonna find my stuff. All the books are there, my album, ResolUKEtion, which has all kinds of… a lot of groove oriented stuff, ballads, and all all sorts of all instrumental solo stuff. I think I did one overdub. A George Harrison thing to get kind of a um more Indian, classical Indian kind of thing going. But yeah, that’s where I teach it’s where people can get private lessons, email me there, you know, all the modern conveniences of of this life. Of this.. is this the 20th century already or which one are we in?

BB: I’m not sure at this point.

KC: Yeah, all I know is that I am looking more and more like a civil war reenactment. That’s all I know. And it’s funny, you know, I saw Aaron Kyme and I’m like “oh my god he’s turning into a father from like an 80s tv show” …and I would say early 80s, you know. I did probably drive a station wagon, you know, but I’m going full on civil war. From here I think the only thing is like basically Walt Whitman, you know, is the only place after this. I’m kind of enjoying not grooming. I was supposed to get a haircut like in January. It’s like “oh I gotta put it off” and then I just was like “oh well, I guess it’s gonna be a while.”

BB: It looks good!

KC: Well, thanks, yeah. I used to be, I used to have hair at least as long as yours back in the day.

BB:Well, we’ll see. I’m not planning on cutting mine for a while. But actually, I got an in-house haircut the other day! My mom had the the clippers out – she actually cut her hair first. Her hair was bad enough that she cut her hair. And I was like “huh you cut your own hair and it turned out pretty good! Will you cut my hair?”

KC: That’s good. I bet yours was easier to cut than hers!

BB: I would think so.

KC: It’s a daunting task to cut one’s own hair. One of the things you know I wonder about and I feel like you know flipping the script here on you is like, what are musicians doing? You know, other than kind of selling it on the corner of Facebook live, it’s a weird thing to be just be in a room with human beings and play music. Such a nourishing, vital thing. And that’s the… man. I really wonder what, you know, because I know you play, I know you’ve been in getting into lap steel and you play with people and do that and…

BB: Yeah, I mean, I haven’t been I haven’t played a gig since March, actually played the ukulele festival in Waikoloa as like the big gig of the year and that was it. That was like the week before COVID showed up here and it was like, well it’s the end of that. And then you know, I was just getting the the bar gig lined up in Honokaʻa town, which is unheard of, never before seen and it was like paying which is great – shout out to Michelle at the pub down there – which is really cool, but then all this happened and she’s like “we have to cancel our music for the foreseeable future” and it’s like “I totally understand, I wouldn’t want to be there anyways,” but that was kind of a bummer. But yeah, it’s, I mean, I honestly haven’t been playing a whole lot. I’ve been spending my time kind of practicing lap steel because it’s new and interesting and self-contained. But I had a friend over and we sat, you know, far apart and played some music on the back patio the other day, but that’s the first first real time I’ve played any kind of music with with anybody. It’s just been kind of that question mark of how do we make it feel good at this point because I don’t personally feel like I would get much out of like a regular live stream. I’ve got friends who are doing that and you know they seem to think that that’s good for their business. continuing on and keeping their music in front of people. but yeah for me I’m kind of like “meh.” I got plenty other things to work on. I’m sure you you know that vibe because… it’s like the teaching teaching versus playing. you know. what what world are you choosing to live in right now? And right now I’m able to continue teaching and teaching is the business model at this point, so, you know, I’m going to put my effort there as opposed to like playing. People have asked me are you recording an album. It’s like “no I’m not ,I’m doing all kinds of other things that might actually make me money.”

KC: Yeah, yeah. It’s just so wild to think about… you know one of the other things I have is a ukulele orchestra – a ukestra – one of many many groups like that on the planet with that name. You know, the thing I’ve been, you know, is kind of like the lead, you know – not kind of – like the leader a founder of that, trying to keep that alive. And the only thing you can’t, you know, because it’s not like “oh and next week we’re going to get together and play” or “we have a gig,” but it’s just like “how good can we get at these skills before we play together and how much better will that make us as individuals and as a group?” And I’ve noticed in the group if one person gets better, the whole group changes. I’m hoping I can keep that dream alive for them but it’s also for myself. It’s like, well, I’m gonna come out of this with new skills, new knowledge, and I’d like to come out of it better than I went into it in a lot of ways.

A question people ask me sometimes: are you going to incorporate anything from this when, you know, society comes back? I think definitely. You know, there’s a lot of parts of this that I wouldn’t just – it’s not just a makeshift change, you know? There’s things that I really like and would… especially being able to teach people all over. You know, it’s really cool. It’s just fun to have a friend in Australia, you know, someone in California and all these people. Just really cool. Yeah, god, the teaching model.

You know, I am glad I’m not an elementary school teacher. I will tell you that, for a multitude of reasons. You know, for one, this there’s some people would think it would be a great idea for a teacher to be in a room with 30 kids right now. Which I do not think is a great idea. But you know, one of my students is a Montessori teacher it was like fourth grade, I think. And doing that online? And it’s all this experiential, hands-on kind of learning. It’s like, what do you do, you know? And how do you test for that? You know, all that. It’s just, I feel working with adults and doing music and people that have chosen to do this is a true blessing and gift as a teacher. Man, you know, just finding that like governors ,lieutenant governors, city officials, school officials are having all these meetings and they are not including the teachers in the thought process or any… and it’s like, these are the people that are you should be thinking of first and foremost because, you know, it’s like, that’s the front line. And for people that didn’t… You know, if you’re a nurse, you’ve made that choice, you know, to be on the front line. If you don’t you can take yourself out of that. But most people don’t get into teaching to risk life-threatening exposure to a virus, especially with kids. You know, it’s just it’s such a such a mess that it makes me just wanna, you know, I don’t have a tv, but if I did, I would probably like, throw a shoe at it and yell um and uh turn it off and play music.

BB: Yeah well, I’m so happy to hear that things are looking up for the Kevin Carroll experience and that your teaching has made the flip fairly easily. Don’t forget, you can check out Kevin’s lessons and learning materials at He’s a dot-net guy not a dot-com guy.

KC: Two r’s, two l’s, two r’s, two l’s.

BB: I always have to check, I’m sorry to say that, but I do have to check sometimes when I spell your name.

Before we part ways, if you could answer one more question for people who are maybe considering moving their ukulele learning to an online, either workshop-based class through Zoom or one-on-one private lessons, what kind of tips could you give them as a teacher for them to get the most out of it or to prepare for the kind of changed learning interface?

KC: Wear loose-fitting clothes and bring a journal. That’s my advice for everything. I really think it depends on the person. I think… and what I’ve found, I haven’t had any any problems with that or seen any problems with it because I think it’s so self-selecting that people end up with the right teacher. But the the main thing I would say is get some experience with whatever a mode, you know, whether it’s Skype or Zoom, so that that is not a hindrance to you or the group before you do that. I might say, eat before or after, but not during so much. And I would also say, be on time. That’s becoming my big pet peeve in these. That’ll help you and the group. The other thing would be to not be afraid to raise one’s hand or hit the chat thing and ask questions. And in that way the uh, you know, the loose fitting clothes, be comfortable, but journal, you know, you can write down this stuff, but I think nobody ever asks a question that’s only for them. But I think there’s this feeling that we’re in our own little bubble and so you kind of forget. You know, like, “oh this is stupid: fifth, third finger or second finger, I don’t know. I’m not even gonna say anything.” But whenever they do, it’s nice to have different voices in the group. That’s what comes to mind off the top of my head. And not be afraid to possibly play if it’s a class like that. I know some people and some teachers are more like “hey just I’m going to do everything you just sit there,” and that’s that and that’s great. I am more a person, “I’m going to tell you some stuff, now you do it.” And you make the sound and then let’s figure out if there’s some potential things that could improve there and how do we improve them. If you’re in that kind of class, to have the courage and to risk the vulnerability to do that, you will get 10 times more out of it than if you just sit there and don’t make a sound the whole time. And that’s that’s what music is about it’s making sounds. And, you know, whether you’re a beginning ukulele player, or, you know, a professional saxophone player, whatever, there’s risk involved every time you make a sound. And getting used to that… and it’s exciting, um and for those that are not the thrill seeker personality type, like Brad and I, you may end up, you know, wanting to hold back, but I just encourage you to… You know, no one’s going to be hurt, it’s not going to damage anything, and you’re going to be able to learn… And in that place when someone does that, I can see them, I can be like, oh let’s shift this. It will open up ideas for me to teach that will benefit them, but most likely, more people, if not the whole group. Yeah!

BB: Good words of wisdom, because I think there’s probably more people than we might expect who are out there, like, scratching their heads, like “oh I really want to take ukulele lessons, but I don’t know, I just certainly can’t take them in person right now.” And it’s also probably opened up the thought for a lot of people who are kind of in more remote areas where they don’t have access to a teacher in the first place, and all of a sudden everybody’s going online so there’s more opportunities for that kind of learning and it’s more generally accepted.

KC: Yeah, absolutely! And then people have more time to practice. So in that way I’m feeling some folks are like, they kind of got the fire, you know, a little bit and um I like to see that. You know, any time that ignition of passion happens it’s a good thing.

BB: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing your time and your expertise on the matter. It’s so so great to catch up and see what you’ve been up to and how it’s turning out for you.

KC: Oh thank you so much for having me, Brad. It’s a pleasure and I wish we’re doing it in the same room in Hawi. Ah, that was so great meeting you down there. But yeah I really appreciate it and it’s awesome to see you. And um so cool that this technology exists really because it kind of feels like we are seeing each other.

BB: It’s pretty close. It’s certainly better than the alternative.

KC: Yeah… And best of luck with this podcast and your lap steel playing and and all that you’re doing.

BB: Oh thank you very much. Yeah, we’ll continue on and find ways to keep the ball rolling. That’s what we do.

KC: Absolutely.

BB: Cool, cool. Well, take care of yourself and we’ll see you down the road.

KC: All right. You too, Brad. Thank you.

BB: You can find out more about Kevin’s teaching resources via the show notes in the link below. All of his stuff is really great and you might even be able to get onto his lineup of online lessons these days and join in one of his workshops. All of his teaching is very high quality and you might even see a conductor’s baton, which I had never seen before in an ukulele classroom. So really appreciate Kevin’s time and the ability to to see what he’s been up to these past few months. So thank you Kevin! The Live Ukulele Podcast is published on the first and third Saturdays of every month. Please tune in next time. On September 1st the next episode will be released. I’m going to be talking story a little bit about Hawaiian style learning and how you can apply the principles of watching and listening to your playing, and how to play a little bit more by ear and a little bit more intuitively. So check back then. In the meantime, take care of yourself, take care of one another, social distance, wear your mask. I’ll let Kevin play you out. This is the title track from his album ResolUKEtion. See you in the next one. Aloha.

brad bordessa avatar About the author: Brad Bordessa I’m an ‘ukulele artist from Honoka’a, Hawai’i, where I run this site from an off-grid cabin in the jungle. I’ve taught workshops internationally, made Herb Ohta Jr. laugh until he cried, and once jammed with HAPA onstage in my boardshorts. More about me