Ukulele Enthusiasts

by Suzanne Walters Gray MFA ’04

In December, the Society of Ukulele Enthusiasts rehearsed before braving the cold for a festive round of caroling at the library, Bates, and the Pub.

The new club’s co-chairs, Katie Bainbridge ’11 and Kristen Gull ’11, first picked up their instruments in 2009. Bainbridge was studying abroad in Oxford, where she helped found a ukulele club that’s still active. Meanwhile, Gull inherited a mandolin from her grandmother’s closet, and found it much easier to play than guitar, which fueled an enthusiasm for diminutive instruments.

Why ukulele? It’s easy to learn, rewards small hands, is inexpensive, and sounds good in a group, they say. Plus, “the ukulele has the lovely tendency to make everything you play sound happy,” says Bainbridge.

The group has about a dozen active members who meet at the Teahaus each week to practice. Bainbridge helps them master singing and strumming at the same time and teaches them more elaborate picking patterns. “Learning an instrument is so much easier with a group of peers. It’s heartening—you don’t feel like you suck,” she says.

And even the avowedly nonmusical can master the ukulele, they say. Gull’s encouragement for envious onlookers: “Anybody can learn how to do anything. Just try it.”