Local Ukulele group expands membership

David Smith, Ron Magruder, Theresa Winstead, Robin Spence, Phil Hairless, Claude Jones and Robin Skillern performing as the Greater Greenbrier Valley Association of Ukulele Optimists at Greenbrier Manor on the group’s spring tour of area retirement homes.
David Smith, Ron Magruder, Theresa Winstead, Robin Spence, Phil Hairless, Claude Jones and Robin Skillern performing as the Greater Greenbrier Valley Association of Ukulele Optimists at Greenbrier Manor on the group’s spring tour of area retirement homes.

By David Esteppe

At the Rebel Heart concert in Washington, DC, this past September, Madonna whipped out a ukulele and sang “True Blue,” one of her early hits. The crowd loved it.

Local ukulele enthusiast Bob DuCharme says, “Ukuleles of the world unite!”

Last year DuCharme gathered a few friends and started the Greater Greenbrier Valley Association of Ukulele Optimists (GGVAUO). He formed the group to get beginners, even if they do not own an instrument, together with advanced players for the fun of learning, playing and performing.

DuCharme says, “The ukulele is having a huge resurgence today, and back in the 1920s, it was one of the most popular instruments in the world for people to play.”

When Hawaiian musician Kama Kawi Woole did a cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” the song was a hit on 2004’s Billboard charts. Since then, the ukulele’s popularity caught on and continues to spread.

DuCharme says the beauty of the instrument is how easy it is to participate. He explains that you do not have to own a ukulele, and you do not have to have any musical experience at all to join the group. Do not worry if you can’t read music: the group doesn’t read music, they just play it. “We accept musicians, but our focus is to recruit musician wannabes, hence; ‘optimists,’” says DuCharme.

DuCharme mentions how many of us get a musical rejection early in life, and then are afraid to get into musical performing at all because of that. Maybe, for instance, you tried out for band in high school and didn’t make the cut. DuCharme wants you to give yourself the opportunity to enjoy being musical. It is in you, and he can help you start enjoying the playing of this instrument almost immediately.

DuCharme is confident that the group can help anyone begin playing and enjoying the ukulele. He invites any adults to join GGVAUO at Carnegie Hall. where they meet once a week. There are no obligations, no fees and no commitments. You are welcome to come to a couple of meetings to see if there is a match between the program and your interests.

GGVAUO are currently doing a spring tour of area retirement homes. A small, fluctuating group of GGVAUO players are performing for four different locations once a month for about an hour.

Lewisburg Rotarian Ron Magruder is having a great time playing with the group. He was thrilled to share the experience of playing at one of the retirement homes recently and having a lady over 100 years of age show her appreciation for the performance. Turns out, the lady is a legendary retired music teacher loved by too many people to count. She used to teach a music class by radio at a certain hour of the day, and all of the schools would turn on the radio station and have music class right along with her.

The moral of the story is – call Bob DuCharme at 804-357-5884 for more information about coming to some of the ukulele meetings. You may also email him at bobducharme@yahoo.com. Take a ukulele lesson. You’ll be glad you did.

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