Kent Knorr has been playing and teaching music for more than 20 years. In 2007, he founded the North Carolina Ukulele Academy in Wilmington, NC. As owner of the Academy, he has taught more than 2,000 students—of all ages and skill levels.
When visitors first come in to the Ukulele Academy and meet Kent, surrounded by a colorful sea of ukuleles and an air of aloha, they often wonder how he came to be 'the ukulele guy'. Fascinated from an early age with all things musical, Kent has been playing and strumming his whole life. But his first experience with learning to play music could've sent him down a very different path. "I was in elementary school and we were all supposed to learn a tune on the recorder. I watched as all other kids caught on. I wasn't getting it. I took it home that night and when my frustration hit its high point, mom and dad, taking it note by note, taught me the song. That was when I first realized that I learned differently than other kids."
Soon he picked up his grandfather's ukulele and couldn't put it down. Over the next decades, he learned to play the 4-string and 5-string banjo, bluegrass, classical and rock guitar, mandolin, resonator guitar, harmonica and, of course, he continued to grow on the ukulele. He's an instrument collector and builder and has been a founder and or member of many different groups, played in studio on several albums and has been all over the southeast playing his music.
He has also taught all the instruments he plays. From school agers wanting to get into the music world to adults wanting a pass time that keeps them sharp, to a wonderful lady in her nineties who, though blind, wanted to keep her arthritic fingers in motion and play for her great grandchildren, Kent has helped open the door to music for them all. "Different people, different abilities, different goals. But by making the learning fun, we always achieved their goal-learning to make their own music," says Kent.
Having extensively studied the origins of the ukulele and traditional ukulele music, he enjoys teaching his students how to play ukulele to get the most out of the instrument. He maintains that though it has strings and surely resembles its guitar and mandolin relatives, the ukulele has special qualities and considerations—from strum weight to posture to picking style.
He enjoys teaching in a way that focuses on technique, style, the joy of jamming and aloha. "I have a passion for playing music and for teaching other people. I love to play, it's really that simple. I guess I just want to share the love," says Kent.