By Jonathan Moniz, Staff Writer
If there’s ever one thing the campus of UMass Dartmouth could use, it’s a bit more revelry.
From the dreary concrete to the rainy days to the marshy ground, this campus has never exactly been joyful.
What better way to change that than ukulele music in the air?
Meet Tighe Ratcliffe, a junior biology major here at UMass Dartmouth, specializing in marine bio. He has a preference (as in it’s probably his favorite) for the show How I Met Your Mother and studies sharks.
Also, he strums away on the ukulele in his spare time, filling halls and the campus center with the musical tones of his songs. When he got started, it was just after he had finished the final episode of How I Met Your Mother.
“I actually started the day after my 22nd birthday, actually less than a year ago. I’ve only been playing for about ten months. All started when my best friend asked me what I wanted for my birthday.”
He paused, before continuing, “I had been a big fan of How I Met Your Mother, and for the final part of the show, the mother plays a certain song on the ukulele: ‘La Vie en Rose.’ That song made me fall in love with the ukulele.”
So then Ratcliffe said to his friend, “I want a little blue ukulele, and that’s exactly what he gave me.”
The series also informed his names for the instruments he plays, with each being named after one of the major characters.
He has Ted, the ukulele with him most. Barney is an electric ukulele, Lily is an acoustic, and Marshall will be coming on his next birthday. In addition, he wants a custom job for Robin.
He smiled and gave a rueful laugh with that, adding that the custom job will have to come when he “has a few thousand to throw around.”
Ratcliffe used to play various instruments, starting with the drums when he was five as a gift from his parents. He would often “play away on them to the annoyance of my parents, until they [the drums] disappeared into the basement.”
He then attempted to learn guitar, but “couldn’t figure it out, cause I think it had too many strings. Didn’t have a real reason to want to pick it up.”
Drawn to the ukulele, however, Ratcliffe spoke next in a quieter tone, remarking it was because “it sounds a lot more happy. And I’m someone who used to suffer from really bad depression, and whenever I used to play the instrument, it used to bring a smile to my face. And that’s the real reason why I liked the ukulele.”
Coming to public performances and impromptu serenades around campus, Ratcliffe started by switching to a liberal arts major and performing with a theater company at BCC.
It’s what gave him confidence to perform in public on a stage in front of people, and also was where he met his best friend.
That friend would be the same one who later went on to give him his first ukulele. He then first started performing after hours at a job in Newport.
“I started playing in Newport and wouldn’t have anything to do for a few hours after volunteering. Figured I’d spend the rest of the day in Newport, and performing out in public in front of people.”
Ratcliffe would often practice for hours a day, and out in public on corners and in alleys. People would stop by, listen, and even attempt to give him donations. Ratcliffe often refused donations, but then figured “a few extra 20s can’t hurt.”
Playing at UMass Dartmouth, he exclaimed with delight, “has put him on first name basis with quite a few people around here.”
He also noted how he had so many experiences, meeting all types of people.
For himself, Ratcliffe spoke passionately about a concert he went to for a Youtuber who also played ukulele. He had written a song for her, and was able to perform it in front of her.
He recalled the experience as “one of the bigger moments that influenced me, and after that I ended up writing the first song I was really proud of. Now I have my own Youtube channel, doesn’t have many subs, but I don’t care because it’s more for fun.”
“All because she suggested it, and I did it.”
Finally, Ratcliffe commented on how the ukulele had changed, noting how he had struggled with depression and Asperger’s syndrome. He talked about coming to UMass Dartmouth and only having one friend his first year, due to being shy.
He now has a concert he plans on holding in the future, and his channel TRthe UkuleleBro on Youtube.
But practicing that summer with the ukulele allowed him to grow out of it, for her “used the ukulele to open up conversations. And I wouldn’t be sitting here, if I didn’t choose to bring the ukulele with me today.”
Looking off to the side, Ratcliffe said last, “It turned into more of a therapy for me, like if I’ve had a stressful day, I’d find a nice, quiet place to sit out and jam and everything would be better.”