29 September

An Announcement I Never Expected To Make: I’m Taking Ukelele Lessons. Maria Is An Inspiration.

by Jon Katz

I’ve signed up with Bob Warren, the well-known area music teacher and composer, who runs the exquisite and surprising food cart “A Little Paris,” with his wife Bonnie, to take Ukulele lessons starting in two weeks.

I’m not quite sure I believe this ukelele news myself. Maria thinks it’s a great idea, but she is often as crazy as I am.

Maria and I had lunch with Bob at his food cart on Route 29, just down from Route 40.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the guitar but never got around to taking lessons. I bought a guitar once, but it seemed too difficult to use.

I think this ukelele thing began in my second Zoom session with some of my blog readers a week ago. Two women from Northern California said they meet once a week together to play their ukeleles. I suggested they come onto a Zoom meeting and play; I loved the idea of it.

So did they.



I didn’t think much about playing myself until I sat with Bob Warren and Maria today in the sunshine at “A Little Paris,”  eating the most fantastic crepe – chicken and vegetables, lean, delicious, and healthy.

Bob told me about some people he taught to play instruments like guitar and ukulele. I was curious about his work apart from the food cart.

When he said his pupils ranged in age from six or seven to 80, it caught my attention.

In case you haven’t noticed, Bob and I are becoming good friends. We click, and he is one of the nicest people I have met. He is also, along with Bonnie,  a fellow creative through and through.

“Do you think someone like me could learn to play an instrument like the ukelelu or the guitar (I was thinking guitar.)?

“Absolutely,” he said, “try it and see. I have no doubt you could learn how to play an instrument like the ukulele.”



(Bonnie Warren, in the window of “A Little Paris…”)

He said older students learn to play instruments all the time.

I looked at Maria, and she was thrilled at the idea.

“Of course, you should try it,” she said, “it would be wonderful both to have you playing music on the farm.”

I did think of playing my ukelele at one of our bonfires, marking the Spring and Winter Equinox, or sitting and playing a song to the donkeys out in the pasture.

I liked the image.

Bob said the ukelele was easier to learn than the guitar, and it had soft nylon stringers that were easy on older fingers, although my writing every day of my life has given me solid and nimble fingers from decades of typing.

He said he could meet with me for a free hour the Thursday before Columbus Day and see what I thought about it.

Why not, I thought. It’s not something I ever thought of, but I didn’t have a good reason in my head for not trying it.

It might not last. But it might.

Bob is one of those teachers I wish I had when I was trying to make my way through Dyslexia and the Providence Public Schools.

Maria says it reminded her of our mutual surprise when she started attending belly dancing class. It was not something she ever thought she would do, but she loves every type and works hard at it.

In this and other ways, she is an inspiration to me.

And I’ll be honest, the picture of me sitting out on one of our chairs in the backyard singing a song to Maria melts my heart and stirs the soul.

Maria wants to pay for my first month of lessons ($90 a month for four lessons), and I said no, but perhaps that would be a good idea –  to say yes.

So there it is, I’m taking ukulele lessons, yet another of those things I never imagined doing that I am doing every day.

It has to be easier than photography. And it’s a lot easier than Open Heart Surgery.

I have doubts I could ever be good at it. But I’m sick of my doubts and other people’s doubts about me. I’m leaving them behind.

Life is beautiful, and life is short. I have so much to learn and want to learn as much as possible before the lights go out. And I want to sing a song to Maria over the music of my ukelele.

I have as good and nice a teacher as one could find. And “A Little Paris” is a jewel in the food wilderness that is Washington County. I love it there, but I hate having to drive 30 miles for good food.

Now, I can just run up to Greenwich, at least for a few months, in warm weather.

He is just someone I trust. I’ll keep you posted, as always.


  1. YES, Jon! Take a run at the wild side of you! I love it! Your enthusiasm is infectious ;-). and I think this is wonderful!
    Susan M

  2. Interesting to tackle a new endeavor. I just discovered an old banjo in the back of my closet. I used to play it, although not well, about 40 years ago. I stopped playing when I was working full time and going to law school at night. It has been sitting out since my discovery, and I have been debating whether to give it away, or try to play again. I’m not certain that I can remember even a chord, but I might fool around with it this weekend.

  3. This is just so wonderful! I have a retired friend, here in CT, who began playing for fun and now belongs to a ukulele band of players from all over the area. They tour and do local concerts, and she is having a ball! Enjoy!! 🙂

  4. You may know that George Harrison used to travel with two ukeleles, apparently he really loved them. He would have the extra one, so the story goes, to get someone else to play along with him when possible. You will, therefore, be in good company.

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