Pass by Room 110 in the UNCG Music Building on a Thursday evening, you’ll hear an unmistakable sound. Ukuleles. Lots of them.
It’s called UNCG Ukes. Dr. Sandra Teglas calls it a “y’all come hum and strum.” It’s community engagement with four strings. And no strings attached. Just show up and enjoy.
UNCG Ukes is every Thursday night at UNCG, starting at 7:45 p.m. Typically, 10-15 players show up to jam. Maybe some Beatles tunes. Maybe Sting. Invariably, someone will say “Let’s do ‘Rocky Top.'”
It began after music education doctoral student Jackie Secoy was asked a question last April, after the structured “Ukulele for Two” program ended for the semester. “Do you offer an ‘everybody come’ class”?
Now they do. And she’s the president of UNCG Ukes.
The informal session is immediately after the formal UNCG Ukulele for Two class. Uke for Two is for one child with one guardian/parent. Participants need an instrument, music and CD; otherwise there’s no cost to them. UNCG’s Music Research Institute, of which Teglas is program coordinator, uses it for research. They are determining what impact such classes have on the participants.
Why have ukuleles grown so popular in the last few years? You hear them on pop songs; you see them prominently displayed in music stores. Teglas believes whenever the economy is hurting, the inexpensive instrument has a resurgence.
Secoy pulls out her tablet to play Jake Shimabukuro’s performance of “While my Guitar Gently Weeps” on ukulele in Central Park. The video has gotten 12 million views, Teglas notes, and inspired more people to take up the uke.
Teglas and Secoy are both former public school music teachers. Teglas’ musical focus was trumpet; for Secoy it was bassoon. Now ukulele is a big part of their professional lives.
No one in UNCG Ukes has played more than three or four years on the instrument. Some have just gotten their instruments. “I hope more will come and play,” Teglas says.
One UNCG Ukes participant has purchased every one of her grandchildren a ukulele and a book of 365 songs, Teglas says. While this woman played piano as a child, her mother had played ukulele. The appeal spans the generations.
Interested in an upcoming formal Ukulele for Two class? Email Teglas for registration information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See UNCG Ukes and Uke for Two perform April 3, 7-9 p.m. at UNCG’s Spartan Trader, located across from Bojangles on Spring Garden. ($1 minimum purchase for concert admission.)
Story by Mike Harris, UNCG NOW (original article)