James Hill thrills audiences with his unconventional style of ukulele playing, but he also literally wrote the book.
The school book that is. Hill attended elementary school in Langley, B.C. where learning the ukulele was part of the curriculum.
Years later he co-authored the Ukulele in the Classroom method book series with J. Chalmers Doane, the teacher who pioneered the idea of using the ukulele for music instruction in Canadian schools in the ’60s.
Hill had met Doane when he was 16 and then reconnected with him in the Maritimes, along with other teachers who assisted in creating the ukulele school program.
“It seemed like the right thing. It was time to update the Doane method with fresh ideas and new repertoire,” said Hill in an email while on tour in Ontario. “The Doane teaching philosophy is still the core of Ukulele in the Classroom. But we’ve mixed in a lot of new strategies, concepts and arrangements.”
Hill is performing a show at the Errington Hall this Sunday, April 6 at 8 p.m. with his wife and cellist player/singer Anne Janelle.
Hill started playing the ukulele in Grade 4 and as a teenager he was a key member of the renowned Langley Ukulele Ensemble. He followed his passion of playing music and earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of British Columbia in 2002.
Today he’s turing heads around the world with his remarkable playing of the ukulele, like his arrangement of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, where he plays as if he’s accompanied by an entire band.
Hill and Janelle married last year and the two have been touring a lot of late, Hill said.
“It’s getting kind of crazy,” he said. “So far this year we’ve been on tour in Canada, the US and Mexico. We just finished a two-week England tour and we’re off to Italy, Germany and Sweden soon.”
Hill, who resides in Nova Scotia, recently raised money through a crowd sourcing website to assist in creating a new album called The Old Silo. He needed $20,000 for all the studio fees, promotion and to hire a Canadian indie rock hero as the producer.
“I’m a big Joel Plaskett fan so I was over the moon when he agreed to produce it at his New Scotland Yard studio in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia,” he said. “It’s more a more rockin’ sound for me; a fun departure from some of my other stuff. My fans and friends really came through… they made it happen.”
Hill is conducting a ukulele workshop at the McMillan Arts Centre this Sunday but it’s been sold out for weeks.
The show at the Errington Hall is his only stop in B.C.
Tickets are still available for the show in Erringotn, and cost $20 available at Cranky Dog Music in Parksville, Heaven on Earth in Qualicum Beach, and the Errington store. Tickets for youth are $5 at the door, and the event is free for children under five.