Her first ukulele was supposed to be a gift for a child, but Daphne Roubini just couldn’t keep her hands off it.
Some 10 years ago the accomplished jazz musician – a native of London, England who now calls Vancouver home – bought her nephew a blue ukulele for his second birthday. To sweeten the deal, Roubini asked her husband, musician Andrew Smith, to teach her how to play “Happy Birthday” on the little blue uke. The problem was that in the process of learning that simple little song, Roubini fell in love.
“He taught me to play ‘Happy Birthday,’ and that was it – I was hooked,” she says. “I kept that ukulele for myself.”
Don’t fret for the nephew though. “I bought him another one,” Roubini says.
From that small start, however, grew a passion that turned into Ruby’s Ukes, the world’s largest ukulele school outside of the motherland, Hawaii.
North Shore strummers will now have an opportunity to join the tune as a Ruby’s Ukes class is coming to Presentation House Theatre starting this week. It’s the first time that Ruby’s Ukes will run a satellite class outside of their main studio in downtown Vancouver.
Roubini – known as Ruby to most of her friends and students – began the school as a student, hiring a teacher for a group lesson after discovering that no such classes were offered in her area. Soon enough Roubini graduated from student to teacher, and the school now offers 11 classes per week and is about to hire their fifth and sixth professional teachers.
The new North Vancouver class, slated to run for 10 weeks starting Tuesday night from 6 to 7:30 p.m., will be the Absolute Beginner group for those who have little to no experience on the instrument. Roubini, who plays ukulele and sings in the vintage jazz quintet Black Gardenia and tours with her husband in the folk duo Ruby & Smith, will be the instructor at Presentation House.
“Ukulele is an easy, fun, accessible, inexpensive instrument,” says Roubini, adding that people love the communal feeling of group lessons. “To learn with others is to really experience the joy of music.”
And there are snacks!
“After 45 minutes, everyone needs a break,” says Roubini, who provides goodies such as chocolate almonds, dried apricots, cookies, juice or tea. “Food brings people together and builds community. It’s the time that students can make friends with each other and also talk about what they’d just learned.”
To register visit rubysukes.ca. There are a limited number of ukuleles available for those who don't own one (attendees must be pre-book these instruments).