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THE FORT WAYNE UKULELE SCENE
Ukulele Clubs And Players Multiplying In Indiana
The ukulele boom of 2011 saw uke clubs, communities and performances pop up all over America. Now, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t play – or at least own – the diminutive instrument. But this isn’t the ukulele’s first brush with mass popularity.
The ukulele got its first taste of the mainland in the early 1900s, when the Panama Pacific International Exposition lured over 17 million visitors with hula dance, song, and – of course – the ukulele. By the 1920s, department stores offered ukes for a couple of dollars, and Tin Pan Alley songsmiths were cranking out dozens of “Hawaiian” novelty hits. A couple of ukulele clubs popped up around this time too.
In Evansville, Indiana, a harmonica and ukulele club of more than 60 members formed from 1925 until 1926. Uke culture has only grown since then, and clubs, enthusiasts and players have multiplied (and continue to multiply) in Indiana.
The Three Rivers Ukulele Club (TRU Ukes) is one of the state’s most popular clubs, meeting every third Saturday of the month from 11:00am until 12:30pm at the Village of Coventry Pizza Hut in Fort Wayne. The club started in 2012 under the founding members of Jerry Noble, Mike Lane, and Mary Jane Casiano, who met regularly at Sweetwater for lessons. Wanting to continue to learn and play as the group, the trio created the Three Rivers Ukulele Club, a collection of like-minded enthusiasts who enjoy making music with the humble ukulele.
Since its implementation, TRU Ukes has continued to welcome new members and now boasts a following of 180 on Facebook. The club has no fees and all skill levels are welcome to join TRU Ukes in playing, singing along, or simply listening.
If the latter is more your style, then consider checking out Fort Wayne duo Kris Hensler and Kenny Taylor. Their two-man band, The Atomic Sharks, is a laid back, island inspired fusion of surf, reggae and Hawaiian ukulele music. The band currently stars in The Music Minute, their own education video series for kids, which airs on select PBS stations nationwide.
The duo also hosts Play the Ukulele with The Atomic Sharks, which premiered on PBS in August of 2017.
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