Sienna Zwizinki may have found her passion during a recent visit to the Braden River Library.
It all began when the 13-year-old was invited to play July 21 at the Moana Tropical Part at the Braden River Library to celebrate with island fun, music and crafts.
She brought along her ukulele and performed a Hawaiian favorite, “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride,” a song she learned the night before. And, she sang the tune in the native Hawaiian language. Oh, yes, she’s been playing the ukulele since January.
“I love to perform. I am learning how to play the guitar and the piano, so I’m excited to be able to perform with those instruments, too,” she said recently in an interview at her family’s Country Club East home.
With her was brother Colton, 10, who sang along to “Hallelujah,” the Leonard Cohen hit.
Colton began clapping after they made it through the song without messing up.
“I just started learning this song like last night at like 8 p.m.,” Colton said. “I usually only sing in front of my family, but I’m trying to branch out.”
Sienna does have a touch of experience. She played Young Simba last year in R. Dan Nolan Middle’s production of the “Lion King Jr.”
The teenager, who is teaching her brother, had never taken a lesson before exploring one class last month at Music Compound. She dropped in on one lesson, and though she couldn’t remember the name of the teacher, she said she was a natural.
“What I love about ukulele is that it’s so easy to learn,” Sienna said. “Literally anyone can start playing by just picking it up or watching YouTube videos like I did,” the teen said.
Sienna said she was inspired to play the ukulele by YouTube star Dodie Clark, who often performs cover songs on her YouTube channel playing a ukulele. Sienna said she fell in love with the instrument because she loved its sound.
Sienna’s mother, Kristen Girouard, said she and her husband, Dale Zwizinksi, were surprised at how quickly their daughter has become proficient with the instrument.
“My husband and I love music, and we’ve always encouraged the kids to get into playing instruments or singing. Sienna has taken to that with musicals and now the ukulele, but it’s nice to see Colton strumming along or singing,” Girouard said.
When Colton protested, she said, “Come on Colton, you have a beautiful voice.”
His big sister is willing to lead the way for her brother.
“I think in the future what I really want to do is either teach other kids how to play like my brother or posts covers of songs on YouTube,” Sienna said.
In the meanwhile, though, she’s looking for gigs.
“I love to perform and be in front of people,” Sienna said. “Colton is really shy. I’m outgoing and he’s introverted.”
Monaca Onstad, who oversees programming for residents of Country Club East at Lakewood Ranch, has invited Sienna to play ukulele at a future resident event.
“The will and determination to play — she learned on her own — is not something you find every day for a person her age,” Onstad said. “She has a love for it that’s adorable.”