The road ends, but the journey continues...

UKE to the rescue

This coming Saturday morning, I leave for my third and quite possibly, last, scheduled trip to Colorado to visit with Dad (note-operative word here is scheduled). With it comes the usual deliberation on what to pack; most of which is rote routine. But those few variable items that require more thought on just how to pack along for the trip are often troublesome.
As a musician, it’s always about the music.
Yes, I have my NOTION software available to me on my laptop if the muse tickles my fancy, or I feel the need to work on compositional works-in-progress.  Heck, I’m so old-school I consider it a badge of honor to whip out my staff paper notebook and jot down ideas using archaic graphite dots.
But that’s not what I’m meaning. And I’m not talking about iPod, streaming or even radio station music, either.
I’m talking about how does one pack that part of your essential being that doesn’t fit into a suitcase, in the overhead bin on an airplane, or be safely transported as general baggage without risk or costing a fortune?  This common question faces all instrumentalists, yet there is no one-size-fits-all answer to it.
Coping with life – the good, the bad and the ugly (to borrow a phrase from a fav Spaghetti Western) – has always been reflected in my music. Prayers, supplications, questions, acceptance; hurts, healings and happy dances; all the dialogue, working through, pouring out – done with my instrument.

Rental 'beater guitar' placed across scrap quilt I made for Ma & Dad ~ 1983

Rental ‘beater guitar’ placed across scrap quilt I made for Ma & Dad ~ 1983

Borrowing or renting a classical guitar is not as easy as say, a violin. I won’t go into the technical details of why, but suffice it to say that the “beater guitar”* I scouted out to rent during my first extended visit, while hard to procure, did deliver as a sort-of security blanket instrument during that five week time span.
My second visit lasted two weeks, a doable length of time to go without direct instrumental contact so that counted as an easy fix.
But…those were solutions for then. What about now?
This time around, I’m slated for a three week stay. As much as those visits are a precious blessing, they are also very intense; filled with tender moments alongside heart wrenching end-of-life realities.
This time around, hubby booked my flight on another airline, one which allows 1 bag and 1 personal item for free as carry-ons.
This time around, I’ll stuff the computer bag with my wallet, snacks and paperback mystery novel as usual, and tote my UKE as the other carry on.
After all, George Harrison composed ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ on his UKE when his primary instrument was unavailable for use.
*”beater guitar” is a term used by cgers and acoustic guitarists alike that refers to an instrument that can be taken anywhere without fear of ruining it…case in point: around the campfire during wilderness treks.


One of my fav renditions of this piece follows and indeed, inspired several of my students at the time to ask me to teach them the UKE…thus forcing me to pursue a certain level of mastery over this little gem of an instrument –



  1. Lulu

    Such a practical piece, but with such a heart-wrenching undertone. Right now, you are in the midst of your visit, and I hope that it is thick with love, with heartfelt moments, and with whatever it needs to be at this time for you, your dad, and your family. I’m not an instrumentalist, but I face similar indecisiveness when it comes to which books to bring with me on my trips – it is hard to choose from among my selection of thick volumes of literature, philosophy, poetry, theology… packing too many invariably brings my checked bag over the weight limit. Imagining you with your uke and your dad brings a tenderness to my heart. I’m sending a prayer up for you and your family. xoxo ❤️

    • laura bruno lilly

      Yes, been in the thick of it, and in the last stretch…bittersweet cycles of life.
      Thank you for the prayers and heart wishes.

  2. Donna

    I can just imagine the planning needed to take along your instruments, guitar or ukulele. At least computer music can happen. Painting would require a lot of materials or a laptop and tablet, but now I just paint on my iPad Pro. So easy to take with on a plane.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Yes, while musicians have instrument ‘issues’, visual artists have their share of planning to deal with as well.

  3. Bob

    My heart and prayers are with you and your Father. Know that he will be comforted that God and his child are with him. Be safe my friend. Peace .

    • laura bruno lilly

      Bob, I feel your (he)art in this comment. So true, the Lord meets us wherever we’re at and however we can grasp His Presence.
      You take care of yourself, ‘ya hear?’

      • Bob

        Wilco, roger that.

  4. Bun Karyudo

    It is a classic song. This ukulele version of it is amazing! I liked the ukulele, but I think this may well be the best thing I’ve ever seen played on one.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Yep, this little instrument has a lot to offer. I think it’s having a 21st century resurgence that is overtaking its stereotypical “Tiny Tim” type of musical interpretation!
      Thank you, Bun, for stopping by, I’ll be looking into your blog whenever I get secure internet access during my 3 week trip.

  5. Jane Chesebrough

    Wow! Jake’s was a rousing version of “While my Guitar…” I had a toy ukelele (or it was my brother’s?) so was surprised to see them played “for real” as I got older. I couldn’t help but play “over the rainbow” next. I first heard this on ER or Chigago Hope when Mark Green was dying and I found the song so emotional that l sobbed uncontrollably. Is a Uke a miniature guitar or an instument on it’s own with less strings if I remember correctly. That is a special story about the quilt, enjoyed it. All this disjointed commentary aside, I wish you a memorable journey of the heart as you visit your Dad.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Yes, yes, yes, the Uke is an instrument all its own and has a wonderful history behind it. In Hawaii, kids learn on it first thing before taking on the guitar or other instruments (if they even want to change instruments) but as a mainlander teacher, I found it helped ease the littler hands onto the fret board before taking on the larger guitar…
      Gosh, I could write more, but well, I’m getting ready to leave in 30 minutes….thanks so much for your wishes…so well put, too.
      I wish for you many photo-ops over this weekend, my friend.

  6. Anna Scott Graham

    While not a musician, I sure know that sense of needing to have tools handy! Your instruments require planning, and delicacy; I’m so glad you’ll have the uke for whatever purpose necessary. My love and prayers are with you on this journey. 😉
    As an aside, I sure like that quilt in the photo!!

    • laura bruno lilly

      Anna: I kinda thought that ole quilt would catch your eye! I made that while we were living in the Bay area as new-parents, newly moved to SanAhZey for hubby’s new job at HP. I even remember sewing the binding to a special Saturday night KFAT program on the radio…I intended it to be for Ma & Dad’s cabin (very rustic) hence it was a scrap quilt. To my delight and surprise, it never saw the early morning dawn of day at the cabin – instead, it held court laid out ontop of their King sized bed over the proper-sized store bought comforter for lotsa years before it began to fall apart at the seams (literally)…then it was lovingly folded and placed inside their cedar chest at the foot of that same bed which is where I found it during my first 5 week visit this Summer of Dad.
      There, now you have a mini-blog post in response to your comment! HA!

  7. Lillian Batarseh

    “Ukulele Weeps” is amazing and beautiful! Thanks, for sharing, Laura. This definitely made my day.

    • laura bruno lilly

      You’re more than welcome! I’m glad to have helped contribute to the good vibes of your day.

  8. Linda W.

    That video was gorgeous!!!
    Your blog is always interesting, Laura. You brought up an issue I knew nothing about, but which makes total sense: how to transport an instrument safely (without having to spend a ton of money purchasing the seat next to you). I’m glad you can carry yours with you on the plane.
    By the way, I follow Vince Carrola, a fellow blogger and musician ( ). He goes by another name when he blogs. You might enjoy some of his videos.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Jake has grown up a lot since that filming. I admire the genuineness of his now fully established career.
      I remember seeing the video for the first time somewhere around 2006-7? Back then (oh so long ago!) the concept of anything going ‘viral’ was novel and I suspect this one did go ‘viral’…so I guess it qualifies as being sort-of historic, too.
      BTW: I visit VC’s site upon occasion. I especially enjoy his satirical vids…he’s a fine musician.

  9. Janis

    I really love ukulele music! In fact, we used Iz Kamakawiwo’ole’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World as our processional music in our wedding. I think taking a uke along with you is the perfect solution.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Izzy was quite the icon (without realizing it during his too short life). I’ll bet your wedding guests became teary-eyed sooner than anticipated with those pieces as your ‘opener’.

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