Last August, I attended the Silver Creek International Ukulele Carnival north of Duluth (hosted by the Two Harbors Ukulele Group). As it is a small venue (but free and fun), they only had a couple of vendors, which included Pete and Shelley Mai, who own Bonanza Ukuleles. Pete is a life long carpenter and cabinet maker, and his wife started playing ukulele. Pete decided to make her a ukulele amplifier shaped like a ukulele, which eventually became a ukulele and then a decision was made to sell them to others. They started out selling ukuleles made of counter-top laminate (they still do), and last summer moved to solid wood ukuleles made of Apsen, Black Walnut, and Cherry. In addition to making a ukulele, they can personalize the ukulele with laser engraving. The top and bottom are carved out of a larger piece of wood on a CNC machine (unique approach), and my ukulele is one of the new versions that has wood bracing–they had been using corian for the bracing as well.
I ordered a Cherry Tenor for our school, which has the school song as the rosette as well as the choir logo. We also ordered a ukulele table for the choir room.
In the months since, Bonanza Ukuleles can now make mixed combination of ukuleles, such as different woods and even wood to laminate.
A few weeks ago, I attended the ukulele sessions at the Minnesota Bluegrass Winter Festival. Pete and Shelley were there, with their new ukulele, the Amoeba. I sat and played the ukuleles for several hours–and eventually decided to order one. I wanted a specific set-up…Aspen front, Black Walnut Body and headstock, white tuners, corian nut and saddle to match the tuners. This came in under $300. Oh…every Bonanza comes with strap buttons, too.
I expected the ukulele at the end of April, but it came today–and I am just thrilled with it. It isn’t loud, but it has a clear, bell-like tone. I think it may develop harmonics as the wood continues to age. And while the shape is unique, it sure is comfortable to hold and play.
If I had to choose one ukulele, it would likely be a KoAloha–I cannot get that instrument out of my head. However, I don’t have to own “just one” ukulele, and this Bonanza will be fun to play and bring around to various events. It is also wonderful to support a small Minnesota business–and to spread the word about these very cool ukuleles.