A ukulele utopia
At 3:45 p.m. on Thursday afternoons, Dan Pepper’s classroom fills with the music of middle school students.
Three dozen or so kids pluck away at ukuleles, more or less in unison, learning an instrument that has joy embedded in its strings.
Dan, who teaches music at Sudlow and also is the St. Paul Youth Choir director, started this group a few years back. The official name is the Sudlow Ukulele Clue. It’s unofficial title is the Ukes of Hazard. Dan raised the money needed to buy the instruments and supplies through an online fundraising tool called Kickstarter.
Then he learned how to play the uke (ask his wife, Melissa, how many times she heard Oh My Darling and My Girl played).
“The best part of this group is that the students want to be there,” he said. “They want to play the instruments. They want to learn the next song…no matter how tacky.”
The group has newbies and veterans alike. “We sit in and just play, fixing notes and fingerings along the way,” Dan said. “I always get excited when we start up club, because I am interested in who will become my new veteran players. So many new faces and eager students wanting to learn.”
The group does make appearances throughout the school year. The first will be Christmas in the Village, in the East Village of Davenport.
They are already practicing for the performance.
“If everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place,” well-known ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro once said.
Take a listen to the Sudlow Ukulele Club perform Sweet Caroline last spring.