Performing with the Steel City Ukuleles at the Wilkins School Community Center Ecofest 2013: with videos

Ecofest 2013 poster

It was a beautiful day outside at the Wilkins School Community Center Ecofest in Regent Square: warm and sunny, and dry. It had been raining, and was even drizzling rain in the morning just before we performed at around 11:15 AM for an hour.

There were vendors, information booths, food, and families with children hanging out. Abby helped out with using our camera on a tripod to get footage of the Steel City Ukuleles performing, then went off to the clothing swap.

Also, Marlene and others came out to listen to us and support us. That was great!

I was happy to see parents with their children watching us, and some of them dancing a bit too. I silently thought to myself, “I am playing for the children standing in front of me”. Music is a beautiful thing to share with children; I remember how happy I was when I was young and encountered music.


We managed to get about half of our program recorded on my camera. Unfortunately, the memory card ran out of space halfway through because we forgot to erase all the photos and videos that were still on the memory card from long ago. Still, we got quite a bit of footage.

We missed recording the first two songs, because of a confusion with Abby about start time that resulted in her arriving in the middle of our second song, but then we got rolling and successfully recorded eight songs, before the memory card filled.



Notice the mention of Pittsburgh in the verse!

Roxy’s Waltz

This was a trio, performed by Amber, Sunny, and Jon.

You Are My Sunshine

Tonight You Belong To Me and By The Light Of The Silvery Moon

One of my favorite musical selection in our playlist, but also the trickiest for me to play, because of the key and the chord changes.

Mountain Sound

Adam had a solo intro in this one.

Stealin’ Stealin’

Rough On Rats

Then the camera memory card filled.

Sadly, we did not get footage of our concluding sing-along songs where we encouraged everyone to sing along!

Afterwards, at the Ecofest

I packed up right after we were done performing, because I could only stay around several minutes longer to explore Ecofest with Abby before heading over to Point Park University downtown for the afternoon sessions of PodCamp Pittsburgh, whose morning sessions I missed because of the Ecofest gig.

But others of us hung around to do more jamming:

A view of Ecofest from front:

Panoramic view of Ecofest from the back dining area outside:

Some vendors and information booths:

Reflections on our performance

I felt fairly pleased with our performance. The three rehearsals we had in the past two weeks were crucial. We did flub some things that we didn’t flub in rehearsal, but that happens. But overall, we produced a fine unified sound. The videos don’t completely reflect that because of the distance and the background conversations at the event.

I myself made more errors than in rehearsal and in private practice. There are a couple of reasons for this. I think the most interesting one is simply that I did not practice enough in a performance mode. Most of the time, when I practice music, I am focused entirely on getting the words right, the melody, the rhythm, the harmonic changes, the fingerings, etc.

But in performance, there is the audience, and the point is to play for the audience, not for oneself. I had a hard time reallocating my scarce attentional resources toward engaging with the audience. When I did, such as by avoiding looking down so much at the fret board (actually, in the videos you can see that I could not entirely avoid this, because I don’t have a perfect feel yet for my finger positions, so I keep bobbing my head toward my instrument), I could feel myself miss nailing a chord.

Having seen the footage, I will work more in the future toward specific practice oriented toward polishing up for performance. This means improving technique and memorizing as much as possible (chord changes, lyrics). It is “easy” to go out there with a music stand and run through stuff, but it is much harder to appear relaxed, confident, and attentive to the audience. I feel that this is quite important to a successful performance, whose aim is to truly touch the hearts and minds of those who are paying attention to us.

It is of course pointless to pay too much attention to aspects of presentation if your technique and intonation are poor, so I would say that performance presentation is not the most important thing to work on, all things considered, but my aim is to master the musical basics enough that I can also reliably add the presentation aspect as an integral part of complete musical development. I believe that a truly good musical performance must incorporate the spirit of those who are listening to us and feed it back into what we do in real time.


I enjoyed participating in my first ukulele gig. Now, I am exhausted, and will take a break from performance. It has been an amazing learning experience for me.

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