Lola Russo says her favorite part of playing the ukulele is the smiles she sees stretch across people’s faces as they watch her.
“I love making other people happy when I play,” Russo says.
Eleven-year-old Russo has played ukulele four times in front of her classmates at Whatcom Middle School and received rousing applause for each performance.
“I was really nervous to play in front of people at first,” Russo says.
Russo’s family is full of musicians, so she’s always surrounded by music in the house. Her brother plays the guitar and sings in an a capella group. Her mother is also a singer.
Russo had previously tried to play the guitar when she was about 6 years old, but her small hands couldn’t reach all the chords. She had watched her cousin and brother both try out the ukulele.
Then she saw a ukulele in a music shop and asked for her own. It was just right.
It didn’t get a lot of play until her cousin visited during a family barbecue and Russo asked her for a lesson.
She learned a simple song and Russo worked for a week to learn the song perfectly.
“My cousin taught me some chords and showed me how to identify them on the chord graph,” Russo says. “I just picked it up from there.”
Since then, she’s been teaching herself by searching for basic chords and strumming patterns online. She’s also found lessons and songs on YouTube.com, reproducing the chords from the computer screen and seeking out new songs to learn. She finds both songs created specifically for the ukulele and popular songs that she adapts for the pint-size instrument.
Her favorite compliment on this little instrument came from a little fan. She played at a family Halloween party and at the end of her song her 1-year-old cousin toddled up her and gave her a big hug.
“I just love performing in front of people and my family is a big part of that,” Russo says.
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