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- For those, who don't know, who you are, how would you introduce yourself in a few words?

- Aaron Keim, musician, luthier, author and educator. 

- How and when did you encounter the ukulele?

- When I went to graduate school in 2003, I got a job at a folk music shop that sold vintage instruments.  There was a Martin ukulele on the wall that I played when no customers were in the store.  I fell in love with the simplicity and portability of the ukulele right away.

- What is your music background?

- I grew up singing and playing in public school music programs, band, orchestra, choir, musical theater.  I went to university to study the French horn and to train to be a music teacher.  I also picked up the double bass in college and played bluegrass in The Paradise String band.  After teaching in the schools for a bit, I went to graduate school in Colorado to study music history.  I focused on Great Depression era string band music from the American south.  This is when I picked up banjo, guitar and ukulele and formed the band Boulder Acoustic Society.  We toured for 8 years before Nicole and I moved to Oregon and we formed The Quiet American.

- What instruments do you play in this set-up?

- Nicole plays ukulele, accordion and washboard. I play ukulele and banjo. Both of us sing.

- Do you tour outside the United States?

- Yes, we have been to England, Italy, Canada and Australia. This year we are going to New Zealand for the first time.

- You play traditional American folk songs. What did move you towards oldtime music?

- I spend many years trying to make it playing classical music and jazz with little results.  When I switched to stringed instruments and focused on old time music, I found success and happiness. It was a natural shift that happened easily.

- In your opinion, which spot in a bluegrass band could be filled with an ukulele?

- The closest would be the mandolin as ukulele can fill the rhythmic role easily and the melodic range is close. But, traditional bluegrass comes from a time, place and culture that did not include the ukulele. I often play bluegrass on the ukulele on my own, but when I play "real" bluegrass in a band, I play bass or banjo.

- You also have made a lot of instructional books and videos. How much of your time do you devote to teaching (besides luthierie and playing music)?

- Right now, we really only teach in person at festivals. I just don't have time to teach private lessons any more. Youtube and our instructional books allow us to reach a global audience, which allows us to stay home and build instruments and make art.

- How did you get into ukulele making?

- When I worked at the folk music shop, I would often watch the luthiers work on old instruments. I started buying old broken instruments and tried repairing them myself.  I wanted a banjo uke, but didn't like what was available. I met Heidi and Rob Litke in 2006, who helped me start Beansprout so we could build a modern banjo uke that we wanted to play. While I was touring with Boulder Acoustic Society, I met Gordon and Char Mayer from Mya-Moe ukuleles, who invited me to join them in 2010. We then folded the Beansprout banjo uke into Mya-Moe as a model and I also started making standard ukuleles. 

- Can you tell a bit about the similarities and differences in the making of a banjolele and a regular uke?

- The biggest similarity is just the attitude and approach in the workshop.  It doesn't really matter what I build, Gordon and Char exposed me to a certain way of working in the shop that produces a high quality instrument in a timely fashion. When it comes to the specifics of the instruments, the necks, frets, strings and tuners are pretty much the same thing.  The bodies are where the big differences are.

- Do you have a favourite wood you work with?

- Oregon walnut. It is easy to work, has a beautiful dark brown grain and sounds great for ukuleles and banjos.

- Now to the re-born Beansprouts. Could you tell me about this brand of yours?

- We re-launched Beansprout as a brand as Gordon and Char move towards retirement in 2018. We will make ukuleles, banjos and banjo ukuleles. You can learn more and place an order at

- Any wise words to share?

- Make something and hug someone every day!

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