Jake Shimabukuro high-fives students and sign ukuleles after performing at Frank Wagner Elementary. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Jake Shimabukuro high-fives students and sign ukuleles after performing at Frank Wagner Elementary. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

World-renowned ukelele player wows Frank Wagner Elementary

Jake Shimabukuro picked up the instrument at age 4. Now, he performs in venues across the globe.

MONROE — Ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious venues: the Hollywood Bowl, Sydney Opera House and New York City’s Lincoln Center. Now, he can add the Frank Wagner Elementary gymnasium to the list.

Shimabukuro entertained students and staff Monday morning with renditions of popular songs like, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “What a Wonderful World” and “Smoke on the Water.”

The 42-year-old’s visit was in support of the school’s year-old ukulele program.

“Kids are going to want to play these and pick them up tomorrow,” Frank Wagner Principal Kristin Cortes said. “Not only are they going to want to play basic, they’re going to shoot for the moon now that they’ve seen what’s possible.”

Shimabukuro has been playing the four-stringed instrument for nearly 40 years. His career was propelled in 2006 when a video of him playing The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” went viral.

He tours frequently, often performing at schools to teach students about music and the importance of living a drug- free life.

Music teachers Bobbie Ann George (right) and Joanna Bivens sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” with Jake Shimabukuro. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Music teachers Bobbie Ann George (right) and Joanna Bivens sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” with Jake Shimabukuro. (Andy Bronson / The Herald) Purchase Photo

“Music and the arts are so important because it sparks inspiration, especially in young children,” he said. “I like to say it’s not just the universal language, it’s the language of the universe. We’re all musicians deep down inside, in the sense we all have something we want to send out into the world.”

The school just received a $6,000 grant for more instruments.

Superintendent Fredrika Smith said it’s all part of a districtwide push to maintain arts education.

“It’s unfortunate that in education, some of what is thought to be core instruction has displaced a lot of the arts,” she said.

“I believe very strongly the arts create a full education.”

Born in raised in Hawaii, Shimabukuro’s mother taught him to play the ukulele when he was 4. The four-stringed instrument is less intimidating than others, he said.

Florida Bernard, a third-grader, laughs at a joke made by Jake Shimabukuro, a renowned ukulele player, as he performs at Frank Wagner Elementary on Monday in Monroe. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Florida Bernard, a third-grader, laughs at a joke made by Jake Shimabukuro, a renowned ukulele player, as he performs at Frank Wagner Elementary on Monday in Monroe. (Andy Bronson / The Herald) Purchase Photo

“It’s so simple to pick up and learn,” he said. “You don’t realize the range and variety of sounds you can make.”

Other than his mother, he’s been inspired by musicians from all genres, he said.

“I’m still discovering all these musicians that I’m a big fan of,” he said. “There’s inspiration everywhere. There’s so much to learn.”

On Tuesday, he’ll play at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, before heading for shows in Oregon and California.

Earlier this year, he was playing in venues across Europe. What he likes most about touring, he said, is seeing ukulele communities throughout the world.

“Every music store I walk into, in Dublin, London and Paris, all had walls of ukuleles,” he said. “I think it’s impacting a lot of lives in very positive ways.”

After his show Monday, he hung around the stage, high-fiving students, taking pictures and signing ukuleles.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Lunches available despite ‘terrible’ senior center closure

Homage Senior Services continues to provide weekday meals at Carl Gipson Senior Center and other sites.

Texan comes to defend Snohomish outlaw barber cutting hair

Bob Martin is defying orders to close. The man he calls his attorney didn’t go to law school.

Everett man identified as victim of deadly gunfire at party

William Thomas Harper III, 28, was shot to death Sunday. His alleged assailant is jailed.

2 more sentenced in killing of Everett homeless man

Three people were involved in a robbery during which Michael Boone was tied to a tree and left to freeze.

Divers looking for wedding ring find car at bottom of lake

A Snohomish County technical water rescue team helped locate the Ford Taurus so it could be retrieved.

Police: Man likely stole from 20 people in Edmonds, Woodway

Edmonds police reportedly retrieved a dozen bags of stolen goods after arresting a Lynnwood man, 24.

Registration open for drive-thru virus testing in Snohomish

Tests will be administered Thursday at the Sno-Isle Libraries branch on Maple Avenue.

Firm accused of violating eviction ban agrees to restitution

About 1,450 tenants, including some in Marysville, will receive rent refunds or direct payments.

Watch Gov. Jay Inslee’s Wednesday news conference here

He is expected to talk about the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Most Read