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Ukulele: Spelling it isn't necessary - ukes of Royal Oaks are enjoying the fellowship

September 14, 2019

If you believe that every day would be brighter with a ukulele, it’s worth checking out the Royal Oaks Ukulele Club. This vibrant community of ukesters started with a handful of residents and now numbers 19 (including a harmonica player) who enjoy their weekly sessions.

Music-loving residents got the club started. Gerry Sudkamp’s original choice of instrument was the accordion. “When I first moved to Sun City from Alaska, I got involved in an organization called the Red Hots, an entertainment group that performed at churches and senior communities primarily,” Gerry explained. “My forte was dressing up like a clown and telling jokes, doing skits, and playing the accordion. Three people in the clown group played ukulele and that’s what got me started. Entertaining is in my blood and when the opportunity presented itself to join a ukulele group, I jumped right in.”

One cannot deny the group’s passion for the little uke. “We all love music and love this little instrument,” said Cicely Schmidgall.

A unique uke group “in good company”

Club member Karen Bell taught herself the uke by watching YouTube videos. “It’s really easy to learn and I didn’t have any musical knowledge, absolutely none,” she said laughing. “We’re really fortunate, too, to have Jane Higgs as part of our club. Jane is the Director of the Sun City Women’s Chorus and has a beautiful voice. Her participation really ups our game! And some very famous musicians, among them Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, Jack Johnson, Cyndi Lauper, Paul McCartney, and Pink have all incorporated the ukulele into their music. We’re in good company!”

“The club’s mission is to promote fellowship and have fun,” said Rae Dammer, “We are so amazed that the group has grown to so many uke-lovers!”

How the ukulele got its name

In the 1880s in Portugal, to help with a shortage of laborers in the cane and pineapple fields, Portugal brought in workers from Hawaii and other Asian nations. When the Hawaiian natives watched Portuguese field supervisors play the machête, a smaller version of the guitar, with fingers flying over the strings, the Hawaiians then named that instrument the ukulele (“uku” means “flea” and “lele” means “to fly).

“The ukulele was popularized years ago in a stateside audience during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915 in San Francisco,” said Patty Kealoha, a resident from Hawaii. “An outstanding ukulele player from Hawaii is Jake Shimabukuro who has played at the Musical Instrument Museum here in Phoenix and has over 100 YouTube videos.”

Wherever you are in the ukulele skill ladder, Royal Oaks’ Ukulele Club welcomes participation. At the core of this group of ukulele enthusiasts is fostering ukulele skill improvement and camaraderie. The group would like to invite prospective residents of Royal Oaks and Inspirata Pointe to join them too, space permitting.

if you would like to be put in touch with the organizers. You can see the club in action here!

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