Electric ukulele player to rock UAA

Taimane Gardner (Courtesy Photo)

Student Activities is experimenting with the variety of programs they sponsor this year, first with a hip-hop show during Homecoming week and now with Taimane Gardner, an electric ukulele player.

Gardner, who was raised in Waikiki, Hawaii, has been playing the ukulele since she was a child.

“My dad gave me my first ukulele when I was five years old, and I played it in front of the mirror until I broke a string. So I absolutely loved it,” she said. “I started taking lessons when I was five years old. And then I started playing at birthday parties, at my grandmother’s church, and then from there, I started playing in contests.”

As a young teenager, Gardner was discovered by a popular local musician while playing on a street corner.

“I started playing the streets in Kalakaua, which is Waikiki, in front of the tourists, just kind of asking for money,” said Gardner. “And then I was found by a legendary singer by the name of Don Ho, and he invited me to play in his show. It was my first job, at the age of 13.”

Gardner started playing the electric ukulele while she was playing in contests and on the streets so she could be heard more clearly than with an acoustic.

“It became very important to have the electric ukulele while playing on the street of Waikiki, just because it’s so loud with the cars around you and people talking. It really came in handy,” she said.

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One of the most exciting things she has done since she began to perform professionally happened recently, Gardner said.

“The one thing this year that happened was that I got to play for the Dalai Lama when he was here. That was really exciting, and I got to meet him,” she said.

The Dalai Lama visited Honolulu in April 2012 and gave two public speeches. Gardner and several other performers provided entertainment before he spoke.

Gardner hopes that, through her playing, she can show others not to underestimate the instrument, which she says is a common thing.

“My main goal for playing the ukulele is trying to change people’s ideology and the way that the ukulele is looked upon,” said Gardner. “People ask me, ‘Oh, what do you play?’ and I say, ‘I play the ukulele,’ and they say, ‘Oh, that’s so cute! You must play Hawaiian.’ And I’m like, ‘No, I play classical, classic rock,’ and they just get this really confused look on their face. They’ve never heard of that. So yeah, people don’t really take me seriously as a musician until after they hear me play the ukulele.”

Gardner has played Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” and many other well known songs, as well as her own pieces.

She enjoys arranging mash-ups of songs as well. Gardner will perform her latest and favorite mash-up composition, a “Phantom of the Opera” medley at her UAA concert at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2 in Room 150 of the Fine Arts Building.

Tickets to Taimane Gardner’s show are free to UAA students taking six or more credits. General public tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door and can be purchased at http://www.uaatix.com or at the Student Union Info Desk.