For years, we have serviced Champaign and all regional areas of Illinois State with our quality instruments and accessories.
While the ukulele has always its virtuosos, including Jake Shimabukuro, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and the late George Harrison, it was at one time almost consigned to oblivion, more likely to be seen in attics than in music stores or on stage. However, with the resurgence in popularity among celebrities, the ukulele is currently having its moment – and it’s not stopping anytime soon.
Even small towns are getting their fair share of the mighty instrument. In Champaign County, Illinois, you don’t have to listen hard to hear the sweet sounds of the ukulele. In Urbana (a city in Champaign County), the Krannert Center is home to most of the uke-ing. The educational complex for the performing arts occasionally holds mini-lessons with local teachers Sarah and David Madden. It’s free and family-friendly, all you have to do is drop in and learn a chord or two.
The Great Hall – the barren hallway inside Urbana’s Lincoln Square Mall – plays host to ukulele enthusiasts who gather to strum on their ukes each Wednesday night. You’ll find plenty of elbowroom, few distractions and no admission charge here. The group is small, often not exceeding more than five or six people, but the passion for the uke here is titanic. Members practice old favourites like Old McDonald and Edelweiss, often playing for passerby’s who can’t help but stop and listen to their soothing strums.
The area is also home to something of a ukulele celebrity. The Duke of Uke & His Novelty Orchestra is a seven-piece orchestral funk-pop ensemble that started in the Champaign/Urbana area and is led by Dave King. It features four-part vocal harmonies, violin, saxophones, tuba, electric bass, drums, Latin percussion and, of course, the ukulele. The group describes themselves as “energetic and unabashedly romantic”, and will swing you from sweet to funky with a sound that will remind you of “summers gone by, road trips to come, and long-lost friends you’ve never met.”
King, violinist Claire Cannon and tuba player Lorene Anderson live in New Orleans, while saxophonist Anna Hochhalter and bassist Sarah Cramer are in Chicago. Drummer Rebecca Burlingame and percussionist David Garcia remain in the Champaign/Urbana area. While the band make sure to stop in their hometown every now and again, in 2011, they started touring nationally.
After hearing one of the band’s gigs, Brian Baker of City Beat in Cincinnati wrote: "In the course of an evening, you'll hear airy wisps of '60s Pop sweetness, Tin Pan Alley ham, blues swagger, jazz and ragtime swing, gospel reverence, Motown soul and classical precision, played with technical precision and jammy abandon."
With local professionals, regular meetups and the opportunity for lessons, Champaign County is the place to be if you’re looking for somewhere to dive headfirst into the ukulele community. This small town has a whole lot of heart – especially when it comes to the uke.
What you get:
$52.80 of Goodies for FREE
Simply cover the $2.99 Shipping and we'll do the rest.