Susan Montgomery Brings People Together Through Music, Children’s Books

Rogers High School and BGSU graduate Susan Montgomery is an artist, author and musician who uses her creativity to cope with chronic pain and anxiety. She is the author of The Strumming Seahorse: A Ukulele Adventure (2023) and has authored other children’s picture books about the ukulele including Zoe’s Groovy Birthday Gift: A Ukulele Tale (2023) and Famous Ukulele Musicians: Biographical Stories for Kids (2024). Susan has also published the Ukulele Expressions (2021) series, which focuses on music for only one hand. 

She co-founded her local ukulele group that meets to play and learn together, serves as contributing writer for the Uke Like the Pros Blog, and is active in her local church where she started a ukulele ministry. Montgomery currently holds author events to share her children’s books and loves to show others how much fun learning to play the ukulele can be. Whether writing, painting, playing music, or speaking, Montgomery’s aim is to inspire others and show them that nothing is impossible.

Toledo City Paper sat down with Montgomery to learn more:

What initially drew you to the ukulele?

I liked the small size and portability of the ukulele. I had already started learning to play guitar, and I had heard learning the ukulele was easy. After taking an online course one night during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was playing my first songs a few hours later! I was hooked!

What misconceptions do people have about the ukulele?

Many people view the ukulele as a toy that doesn’t play “real music.” You can play any style of music on the ukulele including Blues, Jazz, Rock, Folk, Hawaiian and other styles. They all sound amazing on the ukulele. You don’t have to do anything fancy either if you are just starting out. It’s a very beginner-friendly instrument. After learning beginner skills like tuning the ukulele and basic chords, you could strum along with hundreds of songs.


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Do you ever see yourself performing shows?

I have done some small performances at community dinners and would like to do something on a larger scale someday. I have been feeling more comfortable playing and singing in front of people as I gather with friends in my ukulele groups. Leading the ukulele ministry group at my church has helped my confidence as well.

Why are children’s books a great way to communicate messages?

“The Strumming Seahorse: A Ukulele Adventure,” by Susan Montgomery. Image from amazon.com/Strumming-Seahorse-Ukulele-Adventure/dp/B0CH25H28R.

Through text and illustrations, I can convey a positive message about the ukulele for children, igniting their excitement and interest. By using colorful, likable characters like Sammy the Seahorse, I can capture kids’ attention and spark their imagination. I like to create an opportunity for emotional connection as well, including themes of friendship, discovery, sharing music with others, and perseverance. The supplemental educational material in the back of my picture books I include can help teach kids and adults even more about the instrument. I’ve even included QR code links to performances in my most recent book Famous Ukulele Musicians. With this feature, the book becomes an interactive experience, instantly transporting you to the beautiful world of ukulele music.

 

How has the ukulele changed your life?

The ukulele has brought me out of my shell and instead of being anxious all the time, especially in social situations, I now look forward to meeting up with friends to play. I have met so many great people in the process and my musical skills are always expanding.

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