Rocky Mountain Uke Fest is hosting ukulele teacher and performer Mark Baker in Durango this weekend. Baker, from Sun City, Arizona, will be at the Rochester Hotel on Sunday for a workshop and concert.
He met up for an interview in front of The Durango Herald on Wednesday afternoon.
Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I started singing for folks at the age of 7. Later, I got a guitar at 12, and I’ve been at it ever since.
Q: So, the ukulele – how did that happen?
A: I got in contact with some friends that we met in San Francisco – they were playing ukuleles as well, and I said, “I want to check this thing out.” ... And the rest is history. I bought one the next day.
I attended the James Hill JHUI, which is his institute as far as teaching to play the ukulele, not learning how to play the ukulele; it’s more of a teaching program.
Being a performer, and not a music major, I needed that, and it has opened all kinds of doors.
Q: How long have you been teaching?
A: Ever since I got the ukulele. As soon as I learned how to play it, I decided to start teaching.
And I started a club in Sun City, Arizona. It turns out that Sun City has a club for everything except a ukulele club. So I said I’m going to start one. And then about five or six different people said, “I’m in,” and before you know it, we had six, and that was six years ago, and we’re now pushing 150 ...
Q: Just where you live?
A: Just where I live.
Q: Why do you think it’s so popular?
A: Number one, its size: You can put it in your backpack – it’s really hard to cart a guitar around over your shoulder. Number two, its tune. It’s very easy to learn how to play, as far as the simplicity of the ukulele. Now, you can have a little bit more fun, and that’s where I come in the picture as far as teaching how to play the same chords that they’ve learned as a beginner and have a little bit more voicing. I call it adding color.
Q: Why do you like it?
A: For the same reasons I mentioned at the very beginning – its ease. I’ve learned so much more about music theory through the ukulele than I ever did with the guitar.