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By Gerianne Wright
They’re tiny; they’re tinny; and they’ve found their way into the hands and hearts of a student group this past semester.
“The ukulele has to be the happiest instrument ever,” Shannon Ferguson said. “You just get happy when you play it.”
To make her point, Ferguson picked up a particularly bright yellow ukulele and started plucking out a tune. She was soon joined by others strumming along.
The students were in the Myers Fine Arts Building where they gather three times a week as part of the new SUNY Plattsburgh Ukulele Club. Calling themselves the Uke-a-Dooks, or Dooks for short, members practice songs, learn new ones and talk about all things ukulele.
The Uke-a-Dooks decorating their instruments.
Ferguson, a senior education major, began playing when she received a ukulele as a gift in high school. This past summer, Ferguson was working for the Upward Bound program and would teach the students how to play the instrument.
“I carry my ukulele with me wherever I go,” Ferguson said. “The students were asking about it, so I started teaching them. I figured I could easily do the same with college students.”
At the beginning of the fall semester, she approached the Student Association about creating a sanctioned club. Funding was secured, ukes were purchased and the Uke-a-Dooks were born.
The meetings are open to anyone with an interest in the ukulele. Members don’t have to have an instrument. The extras purchased with the SA funding are shared, “but most of the members came back after Thanksgiving break with their own,” Ferguson said. “Some people said they’d join after Christmas break because they would be getting their own then. You don’t even have to know how to play. It’s a very easy instrument to learn; it only has four strings, and it’s way cheaper than any other string instrument.”
Indeed, a ukulele newbie can pick up a decent uke for about $40, Ferguson said.
“It’s a good way to get students involved without tremendous amounts of effort or having to be talented,” said Mac Kilkeary, club member and a friend of Ferguson’s since meeting as freshmen when they began singing in the a capella group, Minor Adjustments.
“I think the club is wonderful,” said Berlin Krebs, a member of the club. “The ukulele is the happiest thing.”
“It’s great for working off stress,” said Kelly Gilson, another member.
Ferguson said that one of the goals of the club is to perform at events across campus and out in the community. In December, members performed in the Angell College Center on World AIDS Day and at the children’s museum in Plattsburgh. The group gathered prior to finals to play Christmas carols around campus.
“I started to come to the meetings because a friend of mine suggested I check it out,” Cassi Burgin said. “I did, and I loved it.”
“Everybody here is super friendly,” Kaitlyn Mroczka said.
“People in this club make me ridiculously happy,” Ferguson said. “I’m a senior this year, and I really want something that will last after I leave.” She looked around at her fellow Dooks, many of whom are freshmen. “I’m not worried.”
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