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Oh Reno, I have so many, many fond memories of this place. I’ve attended 6 years of Reno Uke Fest Fun. I bought a ferret in Reno once. My sister gracefully waddled her pregnant belly down the isle at a little chapel in October 1997 when I was 12 years old. Oh the wonderful memories! And now I have one unforgettable night sketched into my mind. The day I spent at Mountain Music Parlor in November 2017.

​Owners Renee & Don are two of the nicest, most hospitable hosts I have ever met. Renee honored us with a beautiful display of snacks (the Italian side of her insisted upon it) and she made sure our coffee cups were full of warm drinks with whipped cream! This was especially charming as we were all congregating in a house that was built over one hundred years ago!

When you walk thru the front door (after walking up the beautiful stairs and standing on the old fashioned porch outside) You find yourself in a small living room filled with musical instruments, crafty merchandise displays, and 4 doorway options into the rest of the house. The two rooms N/W to where you’re standing are filled with ukuleles and other strummable options, the one directly ahead of you shows a staircase (cute, sunny teaching rooms are upstairs) and a little to the right is a passage that leads to the kitchen, bathrooms, one more merchandise room and the stage in the back. All of these rooms are for our perusal.

This place sells instruments, gives lessons and hosts an ukulele club each month, along with fun concerts and workshops!
Perry and I had so much fun teaching the 2-part workshop that afternoon. We’d begun upstairs with 8 chairs. However as the students who had been parking their cars trickled in, we soon were overflowing! Off we went, cheerfully toting our music stands and ukuleles down the narrow stairwell, like a procession of 1st graders Q-ing up for a nativity play. So cute…

Once the workshop was underway in the Stage room, the students were such great learners! They didn’t mind the mechanical repetition of our practice, or the consistent beat as we played the parts again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and then 6 more times just for good measure. (It’s the fastest way to learn, really)

They also reaffirmed a theory of mine, which I appreciated very much; Adults learn the same way they did as a child. I can say “we’re gunna use our W fingers” and hold my hand up in demonstration, and the class gets it. And when I want them to do it again, I’ll say exactly that, “Using your W fingers” and I hold up my hand. This system helps visual learners, audible learners, kinetic learners, rapid-fire thinkers (always distracting themselves with unrelated thoughts) and methodical thinkers (just give them a formula and they’ve got it memorized!)
I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do with their new skills. The sky’s the limit!!

I want to give a special thanks to the students who came over from Aria School of Music, a non-profit music school in Reno that has been an outstanding resource for the Reno Community for years. Julie Holloman and Evan Stern host some amazing ukulele workshops every month, along with private lessons and ukulele jams. We’ve been friends a long time thru the aforementioned Reno Ukulele Festival. Aria is another of my wonderful memories of Reno. The students brought along such cheer and ambition, they contributed a fantastic energy to the group.

After the workshops, Perry and I swung by the lovely house where we were staying  (There was a genuine music parlor where Perry and I had a few nice musical revelations the night before the concert. The setting was just too perfect not to! Thanks again Annie for the awesome accommodations!) and scooped up Toby. Toby turned out to be the star that night at the concert.

The Dani Joy Duo had a great time on stage, partly because we’d decided to stop worrying about making the music complex. I often think about how Kimo Hussey plays, with such serenity. He uses dynamic like a spell and talks about the simplicity of the ukulele like it’s his religion. I wanted to feel that. To experience it on stage.  With all of the incredible acrobatics being performed on ukulele all around the world, it’s easy to feel leagues away from my goal of being an accomplished musician. But why? We all have our own path to follow. We are, each one of us, completely and absolutely unique. Each of us are a culmination of our own life experiences, interests, desires, whims, and passions. I’ve been blown away by the simplest expressions of a heart. Genuine. That’s what I want to be. Not looking to the left or to the right to see myself, but within. Wouldn’t that be just divine? To be satisfied right where you are? (This is taking me back to the enlightening dinner conversation I had with my Aria friends about introversion and divinity candy…..sweet memories)

And that’s what I chose to focus on that evening. And it was a dream! The stage was flanked by fun western memorabilia, the walls were barn wood planks of varying faded colors, and the room was large with great acoustics. And then there was Toby. Toby is a rescue terrior, he gets nervous in foreign settings, and when that happens, he becomes a magnet for my arms. As soon as Perry and I began our set, there was Toby at the foot of my stool, making a ridiculously adorable spectacle of himself. He’s got one move, jumping on his hind legs pawing at the air. It’s been translated as many things: Doggy hula, pogo-stick, pee pee dance. And he uses it for everything, even when he’s ecstatic with happiness.

The cherry on the cake came when he was doing this as I sang Girl from Ipanema. I had to finish the song instrumentally when these words came up, I couldn’t sing for laughter, “Oh, but he watches so sadly, how can he tell her he loves her, yes he would give his heart gladly, but …. she looks straight ahead not at him…” It was ridiculous. Toby was doing his dance of desperation below me, the audience was laughing hysterically, and as the words were about to come out, each phrase was hijacked in my throat by the kind of laughter that makes your muscles hurt and your heart grow!

Man, what a night!

Thank you Renee and Don for thinking of me and inviting my Duo (plus Toby) to your warm, music home. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

And thank you Danielle Hunt for taking these great photos and videos!