The Musical Mama Origin Story

At the time I’m writing this, my children are 7 and 5 and I have regained my sanity (my memory, not so much!). But when I was a new mom, life felt so much harder. My world revolved around diaper changes, feeding schedules, and naps, and I yearned for a creative outlet that was actually conducive to my life with a baby and toddler.

I enjoyed playing the banjo while I was pregnant with my first child, but when my son was born, it became nearly impossible to play. Banjos are heavy, they’re big, and they have lots of clunky metal pieces on them. It’s just not practical to be holding a big, heavy instrument when you’re looking after a baby or two. I set the banjo down and tried my hand at various hobbies— sewing, crafting, watercolors— without much luck. And if you’ve ever been a caretaker for a baby or toddler, you understand why. It’s hard enough finding time to shower when you’re looking after little ones!

 photo taken by my husband, somewhere on the Big Island, July 2011

photo taken by my husband, somewhere on the Big Island, July 2011

When our first child was still a baby, we took our first family vacation to the big island of Hawaii. Our hotel, like so many others, offered a free ukulele lesson. My husband and I attended on a whim, and I was thrilled to discover that I could wear my baby in a carrier and play the ukulele at the same time. In fact, he fell asleep during the lesson and happily napped as I played! Woohoo! I had found something I could actually do! Playing the ukulele fulfilled my creative side, but more importantly, it was something I could easily incorporate into my daily life. We bought our own ukulele when we got home, and I ended up spending more and more time playing it. I found that I could sit on the floor and strum while my two little ones played with blocks and toys, and if they wanted to, they could sit on my lap and “help” me play!

 our first ukulele lesson, 7/27/11

our first ukulele lesson, 7/27/11

Then, when my kids were four and almost two, my mom and I were enjoying a rare afternoon together, just the two of us. She asked if I would consider teaching kids’ music classes one day, and I thought about that, because it seemed logical. But I realized what I really wanted to do was to share what I had discovered with other parents. I knew of so many parents who felt that same need for an identity beyond “Mom/Dad,” and I wanted to share the joy of making music with other parents, so that they could build musical traditions in their own home.

In fact, the name Musical Mama wasn’t supposed to refer to me, it was my goal for my students. To help other mamas (and daddies) discover that they could make music, too. And making music is so good for us— it can change our mood almost instantly; it engages us in an activity that feels rewarding, exciting, and fun; and it helps us be more playful as we endure the “longest shortest time” of life with young kids! I originally started Musical Mama to heal the part of me that was struggling as a new mom, and it worked. I’m no longer struggling, and my focus now is to teach anyone who’s excited to learn, so that they can then share the joy of making music with their loved ones.

Can you relate? If you’d like to save your sanity by learning to play the ukulele, please check out Ukulele Basics, my free beginner’s lesson or Let’s Play! The Ukulele Handbook for Beginners. If you live near San Jose, CA, contact me about my four-lesson beginner’s course!