Friday, November 29, 2013

Hubris and contrition

Hubris. Contrition. Neither word really grabs me. The first reeks, not only of its meaning, but of John Howard. It seemed to be his favourite word. That and the inappropriately used 'fulsomeness'.

The second reeks of insincere regret and apology. And my regrettable behaviour sometimes. And of apologetically insincere governments. And of ... “I'm sorry you feel that way about what I said”. Not a real apology at all.

But we'll look up the meanings of the words after a short word from our sponsor.

Rant of Contrition in a room full of mentors
In the fulsomeness ( – later) of time I do wonder if I will feel more contrite. I guess I could feel no worse than I regretfully did yesterday arvo, for my hubris was in full flight during our workshop. We were the support act for James Hill's teacher training session at the New Zealand Ukulele Festival. In attendance at our session was James Himself, still my favourite ukulele player in the world, still my favourite teacher. Such style, skill, grace, expertise, humility, humour, dry wit, compassion. He is the Dalai Lama of ukulele. Genuine, deep. James! I love you!

Also there was Dave Parker, from New Zealand's favourite original ukuleletrio. Everywhere we gave a uke workshop in NZ, or stuck even a small part of an ukulele above the public parapet, the phrase was "have you heard of The Nukes?", … or … “The Nukes were here this year and they had 85 people at their workshop". (Thanks for that. Thanks for reminding me that we only had 3 people at our Flaxmill Bay ukestration workshop, and that I lost it (internally) with a woman who refused to acknowledge that her fingers who doing things her brain refused to let her believe that they were doing).

But back to Dave (ever so briefly). Dave is the awkward thin edge of the wedge – how does one coin a term that no-one seems to have yet used? – ukestration – and then talk comfortably with someone who also seems to have coined the term? Tell me that Mr Trademark Lawyer! (probably rightfully so, we were told by the powers that be that we could not use the word 'ukestra' to describe what we do, at least not in any exclusive way. Oh the hubris).

And then there were other god/mentors. Age (yes – his name), and Steve (that too). Both from the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra. Oh my. They were the first ukulele band to inspire our ukestra – probably moreso than the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. They were at OUR workshop! Wow. What a privilege, that people of their stature and history in our own nascent development were coming along (albeit scheduled as an afterthought to the James Hill workshop) to see what we do!

Well you blew that, didn't you Mark Jackson? Possibly for the millionth time in your own professional history.

The Act of Hubris
So this is what happened.

In introducing ourselves, and our workshop, I had to contextualise. (and so I continue to tangentialise in order to further contextualise. Go on – look up you unrepresentative swill – and while you're at it – look up some other Paul Keating classics).

You see. We are getting lots of affirmations that we are really quite good (I wanted to say REALLY good, but I didn't want to display too much hubris). In 2011 the Ukastle Ukestra were awarded the Melbourne Ukulele Festival's 'Golden Ukulele'. It was our first big ukulele festival debut. Whoa. And yes. I get all the wry humour around a cheap plastic ukulele being spray painted gold, and having scrawled on it in texta “Golden Ukulele”.
But peer acknowledgement is peer acknowledgement. Man that was an ego expander. Thank-you, thank-you very much. “I'd like to thank God, my family, and my Attorney”, (as Bob Slacks once so famously said). And if I needed any further ego embellishment, I only had to stumble across this video (starts at the relevant bit).

And then the ukulele teaching business in Newcastle just keeps growing and growing, until there are two of us making a reasonable living out of it. Not heaps, mind you, just reasonable.

And then we are able to go overseas a bit. And someone holds the ukulele pa back home. (look it up. It's a maori word – it means 'fort').

And then we have groups in other nations say to us – “What you do is really different. It's really good!”

And then two Vietnamese television stations vie over rights to interview us, once again proving that Mark has far more hubris than dear Jane (not to mention a subtle condescending racist undertone in his interview technique with Vietnamese audiences).

And back home people come up to us heaps and tell us how the ukulele has changed their lives and thank-you so much for introducing it to me and my husband etc. etc.

And then our own press releases start to tell us how good we are.

And then, and then. And then we are supporting our own mentor – James Hill – in New Zealand.

And then – back to the WIUO, and the presence of Age and Steve.

So back in 2011, back at the Melbourne Ukulele Festival, after our debut performance, a highly esteemed elder of the Australian Ukulele Community (I can't help myself – it was Rose), came up to us and said “you guys are fabulous, I reckon you are better than the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra”.

Jaw Drop. Get out! Wow. Oh my. Oh my hat. Wow. Thank you Rose. I'll keep that under my hat. And then Rose said “I don't care, put it in your blurbs”. We never did. Until now. And what a way to release it.

So. At our workshop here – with James, Age, Steve, Dave (and 50 other people) – all present in the room, checking us out. I choose now to release that little snippet. Great. I reserve the word 'dickhead' to apply to myself at times like these. ... dickhead dickhead dickhead …conceited, boastful dickhead...

The only way to assuage my sins, to work it out, or perhaps to make things worse, is to write it in a blog.

I'm sorry. I am such a conceited idiot.

And I bet Age and Steve came away from the workshop going – “well, there goes a dickhead. We won't talk to him again”.

...but ... but ... but ... I love you guys! You have inspired so much!


excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.

  1. sincere penitence or remorse.
  2. Theology . sorrow for and detestation of sin with a true purpose of amendment, arising from a love of God for His own perfections (perfect contrition) or from some inferior motive, as fear of divine punishment (imperfect contrition)

I am certain my contrition is the latter (2b).

And for good measure

1. offensive to good taste, especially as being excessive; overdone or gross: fulsome praise that embarrassed her deeply; fulsome d├ęcor.
2. disgusting; sickening; repulsive: a table heaped with fulsome mounds of greasy foods.
3. excessively or insincerely lavish: fulsome admiration.
4. encompassing all aspects; comprehensive: a fulsome survey of the political situation in Central America.
5. abundant or copious.

And so endeth the fulsome rant (meaning 1 or 2) and the tossed and turned sleeplessness. Back to bed. We have a rather large day ahead of us with 3000 children, 8 of ours, and burgeoning egos.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Don't dare ask - because it Matamata(s)

Dannie is a ten year old ukulele player, swiftly growing in confidence and skill in singing and uke.  And in perspicacity. We both teach her in different classes. She's disconcertingly observant about how Jane and I differ in our approaches to the world.
We are probably an interesting couple to observe. For me this becomes evident when preparing for travel - she stressie and packie before we leave - intejecting with occasional "can't we just stay home?!?!"  Me - relaxed, last minute. Have a casual chat to a distant friend on Skype. Get roused on to pack and leave.

I do initiate, plan and communicate the majority of our sojourns. I am very organised in so many regards. But like all of us (he says hopefully), I do have the rare personal flaw. For instance, I like thinking about cooking dinner, planning, shopping, chopping, creating, doing most of it, but then finding some distraction to waylay completion. Jane will finish it.
The final ukestration workshop booking in New Zealand only fell into place on the day before we left, and much of it is rather on spec, swayed by the desires to go here or there, a familiar place, a free bed, an old acquaintance, an opportunity. It's a lot of chasing. But someone has to finish serving up the meal. Guess who that is?

And just to add to the last minute mayhem and Jane's stress levels, on the way to Sydney, we get a call. It's a festival. "We lost most of your application, but we are interested. Can you get us this, this and this and the names of 22 people who will definitely come, and get it to us in the next few hours?"

Gee. Thanks. Only have to sleep and then catch a plane.

But Miss Stressie pulls it all together, talks on the phone like the consummate professional she is, writes stuff, orders me around, calls 20 people, gets up at 2am to deal with something worrying her, and we get it all back to the festival before we leave for Sydney airport. Gotta love her. Gotta love the pace of life. You wouldn't do it otherwise would you?!

No guarantees on the festival, but damn! we hope we get in!

We also accepted an offer this week to tutor at a legendary week long folk music camp in the redwood forests of Northern California. Lark Camp still needs confirmation, and linking in with other potential opportunities. In this same week we also committed to performing at the Hawaii Ukulele Festival again (our 4th year). We have a bunch of keen talented ukers and singers indicating their commitment as well, so that'll be fun. This was after Sunday where we helped coordinate some 200 people to perform to some 400+ audience. 5 hours with one soft drink and no breaks.

And so. Do I hear you occasionally ask ... why do these people who are just helping others to play music getting paid?

See the title of this post.

What I really love about our work is that we are paid to be a focus for opportunities. Business 'men' keep their eye out for opportunities to make money. We keep our ears out for opportunities to help others make music. And the opportunities that we find (and create) only arise because we can make a living from it.
And praise be to that!!!
Written from a little standard cabin in a caravan park overlooking hot thermal mineral pools - max temp 39deg. Matamata, New Zealand. 
p.s. Miss Stressie is having a great time.