Ukulele Flashmob For Peace: Q&A with Ron Telpner
On his Instagram page, you’ll find dozens of reels of Ron Telpner; always well-dressed and with an electric smile, plucking and crooning his way through a wide variety of well-known cover songs with palpable charm. Take a look around at other uke player’s social media pages, and you'll often see a like or comment from Ron. He is a well-connected, active and beloved participant in the worldwide ukulele community.
Besides sharing his love of uke and song, Ron puts his energy toward uniting people and bringing awareness to worthy causes. Despite his own struggles with major illness, Ron has persisted in being a charismatic and dedicated advocate for movements such as cancer and worldwide peace.
In October, Ron (with his duet partner Sarah Stevens), will facilitate their 7th Annual Ukulele Flash Mob for Peace. Ron was kind enough to elaborate on his story with us, his connection to the ukulele community, and share more about the upcoming event. Kala is proud to have Ron as one of our Kala Ambassadors, and we are happy to sponsor this endeavor. We encourage anyone with a uke and a social media account to join in the fun! On Sun, OCT 1, 2023, you can post your own rendition of “Stand By Me”, using the hashtag #ukesnotnukes.
Tell us more about how you got into ukulele.
I always say the journey of a thousand songs starts with a single strum. I still remember my first strum after buying my very first ukulele , a Kala tenor, about 8 years ago. I started playing after a series of health challenges, including kicking cancer, affected my lungs and a doctor told me that singing out loud would help my badly damaged lungs. I took lessons at the Haliburton School of Art and Design, and the rest is history. And from that first Kala ukulele, my collection has grown to over thirty ukes!
What inspired Ukulele Flashmob for Peace, and when did it start?
I started the Annual Virtual Ukulele Flashmob for Peace 7 years ago with my duet partner Sarah Stevens @ukulele.sass. Having outlived a dire prognosis I thought there was something I could do to give back.
Together, we came up with the idea of the flashmob for peace, as a way for musicians to make their voices heard in the name of peace and decency. Our first “flashmob” occurred on the first Sunday in October 2017 and has been growing ever since.
What are some of your highlights and takeaways so far with this continuing event?
The event has attracted musicians from around the world, some playing solo and others putting together elaborate duets and groups to sing Ben E. King’s 1961 hit “Stand By Me”. There have been some amazing collaborations with many of the “stars” of Instagram, including Bernadette Plazi, Christopher Davis-Shannon, John Atkins (theUkulele Teacher), Cynthia Lin, James Hill and so many more.
What are the best hashtags to follow to catch some performances?
When Sarah and I started this movement, we thought the hashtag #ukesnotnukes summed up our goal. If everyone played ukulele, the world would be a more peaceful, decent place with human rights for all.
You seem incredibly active within the ukulele community - tell us more about your experience and motivations with that.
When I first took ill with Scleroderma and was told singing everyday would help my lungs, I took that advice to heart. I have been signing everyday, ever since. When I see the hundred day challenges issued by musicians, it makes me laugh. Try the challenge of recording and posting everyday for 7 years! And during those 7 years I have become friends with some great folks, several of whom I have met in person. I have used my marketing skills to help other musicians, given interviews on various podcasts and played live at several events, many of them fundraisers for cancer research.
What are the details for this year's event?
This year’s event takes place October 1st, 2023, with musicians posting all day long, using the #ukesnotnukes hashtag. And because so many participants have joined in for years, we also encourage players to re-post their covers from previous years. A couple days after the event, Sarah and I will be live on Instagram, drawing the names of three lucky winners of Kala ukuleles. We are thrilled to have Kala as our partner and appreciate how they give back to the ukulele community.
What's your favorite uke to play these days?
My very first ukulele was a Kala Travel Tenor, since then I have acquired many more. Admittedly, I have bought a couple other name brand ukes but nothing compares to Kala for fit, functionality and exceptional sound. Plus Kala is a company with heart. My favorite ukulele is a Kala tenor with electronics. I still remember just how difficult it was to first start playing, then playing and singing and standing up and playing.
Now years after picking up my first Kala ukulele, nothing is more thrilling than getting on stage and performing originals and rock and roll covers, giving my “golden” voice something to sing about!
I encourage every musician out there to make their voices heard in the name of peace on October 1st. Play “Stand By Me”, use the hashtag #ukesnotnukes, and you could be the winner of a new Kala ukulele.
While I have been accused of having UAS* (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome) I do have my eye on the Kala Revelator tenor. And finally, if you are reading this, please mark your calendar of October 1st, and stand up for peace!