Strumming Along: Beginning to Intermediate Ukulele with Peter Thomas & Dave Peters

We’re pleased to invite longtime ukulele instructor Peter Thomas back to the Folk School this June 9-15 to teach a Beginning through Strumming Along: Intermediate Level Ukulele class with co-instructor Dave Peters.

Read more about Peter Thomas and his class in our interview below! Also watch his previous Morningsong videos to get a taste of his style. Interested in his class? Register today to secure your spot.

JCCFS: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background in your medium? How did you get started?

PT: I’ve been playing the ukulele for over 30 years, having learned from my father. In 2002, I initiated the first ukulele club in the USA right here in Santa Cruz. Beyond that, I’ve been an active member in numerous local bands, showcasing my ukulele skills. Over the past decade, I’ve also been extensively involved in teaching week-long introduction to ukulele classes. Through this experience, I’ve honed my teaching style to be both fun and relaxed, enabling beginners to gain confidence in their playing abilities. Whether it’s someone just picking up their first ukulele or someone who’s been strumming for a while but lacks confidence, my approach helps them become proficient enough to comfortably play for friends, family, or in various community settings like church or school. Moreover, using the same approach, I’ve developed methods to guide those who already know a few chords to the next level of their playing journey.

JCCFS: Tell us more about your class’s specific technique or process.

PT: We keep things light-hearted and enjoyable. I provide some instructions, and then we dive into playing songs. Starting with simple tunes that only require two chords, I use this as an opportunity to explain the fundamentals of music while singing along with your ukulele. I co-teach the class with Dave Peters, who until recently resided in Brasstown and is arguably the funniest person alive, all while being a skilled ukulele player. What distinguishes our class is the sheer amount of fun you’ll have and how much you’ll learn in the process.

Peter playing the ukulele

Peter & his class having fun!

A previous ukulele class taught by Peter

View of the Davidson Hall and Music Studio!

JCCFS: What can students expect to leave your class with?

PT: All of our students return home with happy memories of the class. Most of them can play the ukulele better than when they started the class and some of our students have returned home to start little bands or ukulele clubs in their own home towns.

JCCFS: What is your favorite aspect or part of the Folk School? What do you most look forward to when coming back to teach on our campus?

PT: When I arrive back at the Folk School I have a wonderful sense of being at home. I love to walk the paths between buildings looking at the light coming through the trees and gazing across the fields towards the horizons. I love the random encounters and meeting people at meals. I love how my class full of strangers become best friends by the end of the week, happily playing some song we have composed together for the final show and tell before we leave.

JCCFS:What’s one accomplishment you’ve made recently that you are proud of, and why?

PT: In past classes that Dave and I have taught, I am really proud of how over the course of the week our beginning ukulele students went from being tentative to confident enough to perform and record a song.

JCCFS: What tips would you give a student or aspiring craftsperson? Anything you wish you had known earlier in your career?

PT: Make sure you like what you are doing.

Peter and Dave with the gypsy wagon!

Upcoming Class with Peter Thomas & Dave Peters

Strumming Along: Beginning to Intermediate Ukulele

June 9-15, 2024

Four fingers, four strings—humans were made to play the ukulele. Whether you’re a complete novice or have a few chords memorized, take your playing to the next level. Focus on producing basic chords, building chords into families, and exploring how music works, all while singing along to fun songs like “Five Foot Two,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” and “My Girl.” From country to folk, rock, jazz, and more—the uke can handle whatever music makes your heart sing.

About Peter Thomas & Dave Peters

Peter Thomas is a book artist, hand papermaker, and musician. He is president-for-life of the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz, and he plays ukulele, harmonica, button accordion, and kazoo (a percussion instrument he invented) in a number of local bands. He and his wife, Donna, work collaboratively, writing, illustrating, printing, and binding both fine press and artist books under the imprint of Peter and Donna Thomas. Known as the Wandering Book Artists, they built a medicine show style of trailer—a book art studio-on-wheels—to travel the country, and have made multiple visits to the Folk School to teach ukulele classes.

Dave Peters lived and worked in the Brasstown area for over 30 years before moving to Knoxville, TN. He was a founding member of the local band Irons in the Fire, which played many times at the Folk School, and he served on the Folk School’s board of directors. As a songwriter, Dave has received several regional and national songwriting awards. He has assisted in beginning ukulele classes at the school since 2012 and enjoys helping students bring music into their lives.

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