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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ukecello or Cellele?

Originally Posted: 05-26-12

I started playing the cello when I was four years old and since then it has been the most consistent part of my life. Music is a huge part of who I am and how I express myself in the world and when I thought about hiking the trail it became clear to me that the need for music had to be addressed. 

In the early stages of planning, I pondered the idea of hiking without an instrument and challenging myself to writing music in my head. I know that I am up to this challenge but there is the issue of how to share music with people along the trail. 

The more I thought about an instrument-free 5 months, the more anxious I became. Each time I discussed my thru-hike plans with friends, their number one question was, "what instrument will you bring on the trail?" When I told them "none" they looked at me skeptically.

Fortunately, since picking up the cello 25 years ago, I have also studied other less cumbersome instruments. In high school I started playing guitar so I could jam on pop tunes with friends. Then, when I was hired as a naturalist in California 7 years ago, I started playing the mandolin. And in the last few years I've been playing the Irish tenor banjo.

My newest instrument is a restrung tenor ukelele in cello tuning. The CGDA tuning allows me to utilize the cello fingering I had practiced for so long. A cello/mini guitar in a small package; seemingly the perfect instrument for the trail.

I have already conceded to the idea that this instrument may be destroyed by the time the trip is over. I am encouraged by the fact that my friend Ryan carried this very same model of uke, in standard tenor uke tuning, through Central America for several months a couple of years ago. Thank you Ryan for the inspiration!

I know this is going to be a weight concession in my attempts to go as lightweight as possible but the goal here is fun, not ultimate ultralight. I'm nearly certain this 1.5 pound package is going to bring me a lot of joy. I'll talk more about my gear choices in the next post.

Currently, I am working on a film score for Maria Lewis' documentary "Flood Year." You can check out my other music at


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