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THE ALBANY UKULELE SCENE
Ukes Galore in Albany, NY
As any ukulele enthusiast is already well aware, the uke has seen a massive resurgence in popularity lately. In the past several years the mighty little instrument has moved well beyond its hula and folk typecast and into every genre possible: Rock, blues, jazz, classical, modern, punk – you name it, the ukulele has probably played it.
The state of New York is no stranger to the wave of popularity the uke has been riding lately, but recently, the comeback has crept into even the smallest and most unexpected of towns – like Albany, New York. Its closest ukulele group, the Tech Valley Ukulele Meetup, is relatively new to the uke community. The group – created by local Mark Menard, who first started playing in April of 2014 – meets once a month to play, sing, show off different ukes and share ukulele knowledge.
Pieces to play as a group are picked by Mark at each meetup from The Daily Ukulele – A Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Songbook, however members are welcomed and encouraged to share songs they’ve been working on as well.
If you’re happy to trek a little further out of town for some extra uke time, the Altamont Ukulele Group in Guilderland (a 20-minute drive from downtown Albany) meets on the third or fourth Thursday of every month from 6:30pm until 9:00pm in the Normanskill room at the Guilderland Public Library on Route 20.
Meetings are not teaching sessions, however uke players of all skill levels are welcome. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional with a great deal of experience, the Altamont Ukulele Group provides players with the opportunity to get together with other like-minded ukers to play music and have fun. The group plays easy, familiar songs to start out with and – once everyone is comfortable playing with each other – plans to use the library’s AV equipment. Members are welcome to bring music they want to share and are encouraged to bring song sheets for others. Currently, Altamont Ukulele Group has 39 members on Meetup and is rapidly growing.
A third group, the Electric City Ukulele Club, lies half an hour away in Schenectady. While the club doesn’t seem to have a ukulele presence, and the latest news articles featuring them were published more than five years ago, they used to play at at a local cafe to talk chords, compare instruments and, most of all, jam.
Attendees varied, but, according to a 2009 article, typical core regulars included Jay Freud of Clifton Park, a self-described uke enthusiast who keeps a photograph of Marilyn Monroe in his instrument's case for good luck, and musician Ron Gordon, who started the group around 2006 and has been playing the uke for over 35 years.
Those interested in playing with the Electric City Ukulele Club may have to hunt them down to find out if they still get together, but past meetups were held at the Moon and River Café on the second Monday of each month from 7:00pm until 9:00pm.
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