The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Jake Shimabukuro gives a ukulele performance at the Carnegie Lecture Hall

Musician Jake Shimabukuro rocked the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland at a sold out headlining show on Saturday, March 29, using his signature instrument: the ukulele.

The concert was sponsored by Calliope, The Pittsburgh Folk Music Society, an organization dedicated to promoting, preserving, and teaching people to make live music.

The Turpentiners, an Americana band from Pittsburgh, opened with four songs.  Saturday’s show featured four of their members: Megan Williams on fiddle and vocals, Stu Braun on harmonica, Ben Hartlage on guitar and vocals, and Adam Frew on the upright bass.

Their music, especially Williams’ fiddle and vocal solos and Braun’s harmonica solos, garnered enthusiastic applause from the audience.

The Turpentiners have an album project in the works. Their next performance will be on Friday, April 11, at the Thunderbird Cafe in Lawrenceville. For ticket information, visit

Following the Turpentiners’ set and a brief intermission, Jake Shimabukuro took the stage.  After a bow, the ukulele virtuoso launched into his performance, showcasing the skills that inspired “Rolling Stone” magazine to recognize him as a musical “hero.”

If Shimabukuro himself wasn’t dancing across the stage while playing, his fingers were dancing across his ukulele’s frets. He manipulated the instrument to make dynamic music, ranging from raucous uke-rock to sweet melodies emulative of traditional Hawaiian ukulele music.

While playing, he wore a wide grin that was only ever replaced by a look of the utmost concentration during particularly difficult ukulele riffs.

Shimabukuro occasionally let out a whoop while playing that he seemingly just couldn’t hold back.

His excitement was clear in his stage banter, as well. “I told everyone, ‘I’m playing Carnegie Hall tonight,” the Hawaii native said, and then he cheered. “I didn’t know there were two. I like this one much better, though,” he continued, prompting laughter from the crowd.

Shimabukuro’s music is entirely instrumental.  Bass guitarist Rich Glass accompanied him on a few songs, but for the most part, it was Shimabukuro’s ukulele playing alone that enticed applause and cheers from the audience.  Not even the elaborate light show behind Shimabukuro could distract from his talent and passion.

Shimabukuro performed “Ukulele Five-0,” inspired by his “favorite show.” He also played a more personal piece, “Gentlemandolin,” inspired by his 19-month-old son. He had been listening to mandolin music when he wrote the song, and he hoped that his son would grow up to be a “gentleman…dolin.”

Shimabukuro began playing the ukulele at age four, “about 15 years ago,” the 37-year-old joked. He began by playing traditional Hawaiian music, and “just fell in love with it.” When he got older, he began listening to rock music, including that of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.

“I thought it was so cool how they could manipulate their sound through electronics,” Shimabukuro said.

He played a song called “Piano Forte,” in which he controlled the sound of his electric ukulele using foot pedals. He recorded a portion of the song on the spot, and set it to loop as he played and recorded different sounds, rhythms, and solos. The final product was a multitrack song that was difficult to recognize as having been recorded exclusively using ukulele.

Shimabukuro also performed several covers, including The Beatles’ “In My Life,” Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (a crowd favorite), and The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (one of his favorites to play).

“When you cover the song of another artist, it’s like wearing the jersey of your favorite basketball player,” Shimabukuro said.  “It shows your love and admiration for an athlete or a human being.”

Before ending his show, Shimabukuro spoke about Four Strings Foundation, which promotes music education in schools by distributing ukuleles and teaching students to play.

“You teach [these children] a One Direction song, and they’re like ‘Oh, my gosh, this is the best thing ever,’” he said.  The joy that learning to play the ukulele brings children inspires his passion for the foundation.

After thanking his crew, the Carnegie Lecture Hall staff, and the audience for supporting live music, Shimabukuro ended the concert with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

“I thought it was absolutely wonderful,” said Cynthia Kramer of Butler, PA, after the show. “If you closed your eyes, you would imagine there were a lot more instruments than just the ukulele.”

The rest of the audience seemed to agree. Shimabukuro exited the stage to resounding applause and a standing ovation from the audience, clearly delighted by his performance.

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