Occupation: Owner of Uke Boutique and a Suzuki Method teacher
Length of time in Amsterdam: 5 years
Why did you choose Amsterdam?
Because my husband was in the food industry selling international foods, we travelled to Amsterdam for at least two weeks every year for 10 years. I wanted a solid retirement plan, without having to retire. I wanted to teach an instrument and I decided on the ukulele, which is hugely popular in the US but not yet here. I wanted to introduce the ukulele to Holland’s schools, and to show the big musicians that it’s not a toy. Plus the sun isn’t my best friend; the weather here is much more suited to my complexion. Amsterdam was my answer. I also come from three places with a lot of tourist traffic: Miami Beach, Key West and Coconut Grove. I know what a village community is like. It’s important to have small, niche shops for both the locals and the tourists.
How has Amsterdam impacted your career?
It’s relaxed my career. I’m actually working more hours but it’s not as strenuous. Before, I taught lots of kids the violin using the Suzuki Method, which was founded upon the belief that music acquisition in children is very similar to that of their native language. I wanted to do the same here, on a four-stringed instrument. And again, because there wasn’t a ukulele craze here yet, I decided to switch instruments.
How do you network?
The foot traffic is so, so important. If I were to have opened my shop on a street in my neighbourhood, or in one of the more residential areas, I would be extremely isolated. But I get people from all over the world walking through my door, which is really wonderful. We also have ties to the different manufacturers, which opens up opportunities, as well.
Do you have advice for someone opening a shop in Amsterdam?
Get a really good accountant. That’s your top advisor. And get a view of the market and of the demand for your product.
How has Amsterdam changed you?
I’m not bombarded with advertising as much as at home; I buy less. Once I have enough, it’s enough. I really like things that are made here or things that are designed here; buying those things has become really important to me. I’ve decluttered so much that I don’t have much that’s non-essential.
"We have an event in the summer called Ukestock. I’m looking to expand it, to make it an international uke festival. I hope that by spreading the ukulele love, I’ll be giving Amsterdam a great gift."
Close your eyes and picture home. Where is that for you?
Hollywood, Florida. I have a beautiful little house there, on a canal, near the beach.
Is there anything you miss from home and can’t find here?
Mangos. A suitcase full of them. The ones here just aren’t the same as those from Florida.
On a Sunday afternoon, where would we find you?
It’s my one day off. I love to walk around the city, sometimes to a museum. Whether I go in is beside the point. The city by foot is an entirely different experience than by bike or tram.
If you had a friend visiting next week, what are a few things you wouldn’t let them leave without seeing?
Nieuwmarkt, Rijksmuseum and I’d insist that they went to see a show. I’m really looking forward to the Anne Frank play at Theater Amsterdam. And definitely live music at the Paradiso, because it’s iconic and so gorgeous. And, of course, we’d have to take a massive walk around the city on a nice day.
Amsterdam is a city of characters. Who’s the quirkiest person you’ve met here?
There’s a guy called Zou Zou. He does this routine with a ukulele and a big fabric horse, and puts on quite a few shows in town. He has wild hair. We sold him a ukulele once after his was stolen.
Is there something about Amsterdam that you don’t want to see change?
The abundance of small shops and the window shopping culture. I don’t want to see the big box stores take over.
How will you impact Amsterdam?
I’m hoping to leave a footprint. I’m developing a curriculum to show teachers how to teach the ukulele and am trying to get both non-musical primary school teachers and arts professionals who share a diverse range of musical interests to take my course. That way, this humble little instrument can get into schools. With education budget cuts, it’s vital that music makes its way into every classroom.
The academic implications are endless and the implementation is easy; the ukulele is affordable and simple to learn. I also give Suzuki Method lessons right in my shop and organise a community initiative called the Ukulele Orchestra of Amsterdam. We practice at the Boutique Hotel View on the Leidsekade, and that’s every Wednesday. Everyone is playing the ukulele… Eddie Vedder, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet... We have an event in the summer called Ukestock. I’m looking to expand it, to make it an international uke festival. I hope that by spreading the ukulele love, I’ll be giving Amsterdam a great gift.