Over my lifetime I’ve been involved in a bunch of different musical activities. Be it saxophone in the school band, musical theater both community and professional, music major studying voice, playing harmonium and chanting Sanskrit in a kirtan band, or a number of karaoke nights that I cannot begin to count. All of these experiences have brought many things to my life, both small and very meaningful. But who knew that starting a ukulele playing circle would become so significant.
I bought a ukulele about two years ago. I just wanted an instrument that I could use to accompany myself at open mic nights and was easy to carry. Over the years I tried to learn to play the guitar, not with any great success, and I figured that I would have an easier time with only four strings. I was able to pick the uke up with limited struggles and was shortly working on a set of songs to perform. I also realized I needed to play with others to help me improve my own playing. I decided to start a weekly Meet-up at the Westport Y where I work. It started out with just a few of us in the lobby plucking and strumming as well as we could. Soon word spread and all of a sudden our group started to grow.
Soon we had a dozen or so players joining us every week and gave ourselves a name The CUkes and started performing. We were finalists in Connecticut’s Got Talent Show at the Wall Street Theater in Norwalk, performed at Make Music Day in Bridgeport, Porchfest in Blackrock, once a month at the Horseshoe Cafe in Southport and even a few senior centers. Each and every performance was received with a very positive response. It’s truly hard not to feel joy when you’re either listening or playing the ukulele. The ukulele brought us together but it’s the music and how it makes us feel that sustains us.
This group reminds me each and every week of one of the aims of my fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, “To instill in all people an awareness of music’s important role in the enrichment of the human spirit”. It’s the accessibility of the instrument that allows so many of us to come together and make music. Music infuses our body and soul with beautiful vibrations and sounds. I may be the group’s ringleader but I’m happy each week just to be able to be there and receive this gift of music from each and every player that lend’s their strumming and voice to us.
Whatever the venue, my living room, a friend’s porch on a summer evening, a concert stage or an open mic night, music has been my drug of choice and this little instrument has fed my addiction and I will continue to pursue this feeling for as long as I am able.
P.S. I have since been able to learn to play the guitar but that experience is for another post.