Performing arts camp: The intermediate ukulele class has been difficult--the good kind of difficult-- with the barre chords, inversions and strum patterns stretching both my mental and motor learning. The fingerpicking is stretching me too (in the case of my fingers, literally), but my ears, fingers and cerebellum are committing pieces to muscle memory faster than my cortex can translate what appears on the sheet music to my fingers (I actually play the song better if I close my eyes).

Steve's a terrific instructor: patient, easygoing, and able to adjust to where the class is. Still, though I get the hang of "Duke's Place," and even figure out how to solo in a blues scale, it's been a jampacked week. For the past four days there's been constant learning: circus arts, choral and solo parts to sing (including, for crying out loud, Sondheim), hula hooping, and yoga (plus in my down time I've been immersing myself in some China Mieville). So each time Steve has counted us in for "St. Thomas," it's the fretboard equivalent of a train wreck on my uke.

The class' live performance will begin in just a few minutes. I see four other uke players are scattered outside the dance hall, trying to find a quiet spot to work just a few more minutes on the fingering.

My brother-in-law commiserates. "Every class I've ever taken with Steve, even the ones labelled for beginners, have left me wimpering."

"I'm taking the class pass/fail," I tell him. "So really, if I get 51% of the notes... I'll call that success."

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