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UKULELE RAPID CITY
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THE RAPID CITY UKULELE SCENE
Budding Ukulele Community In Rapid City, South Dakota
South Dakota is known – above all – for the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the enormous sculpture depicting U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
It’s also known for the Black Hills, Sioux Falls, and the bouts of severe weather it receives. But ever since the ukulele boom hit the US around 2010, South Dakota has also become known for something else: A budding ukulele community.
With miles of plains, steep flat-topped hills, towering rocks and badlands, the ukulele may look misplaced here, but don’t let South Dakota’s dusty backdrop fool you. The ukulele is as at home here as it is on the tropical shores of Hawaii.
In Rapid City, there is such a vast uke community that it can be difficult to keep track of exactly how many ukulele clubs are coming and going. Luckily, they all meet at the same place: the Rapid City Public Library.
The Rapid City Ukulele Guild seems to meet at the library regularly, with meetings usually held every Saturday from 9:30am until 10:30am. The strummers group welcomes players of all skill levels and even provides extra ukuleles for those who do not have their own. Entrance is free, and those looking to play as well as learn more about the diminutive instrument are encouraged to join.
Another group, the Rapid City Ukulelists, also meet on Saturdays at the downtown public library for jam sessions. Founded by library director and ukulele enthusiast Jim McShane, the Ukulelists are made up of both new and seasoned players and attract a wide range of ages, from high school students to the elderly. Some members have been playing for years, while others have never picked up a ukulele prior to attending a session.
The Black Hills Ukulele Orchestra is another frequent visitor to the public library. While the group technically meets in the Custer area (an hour’s drive outside Rapid City), they do perform past their home borders often, venturing to places like Keystone, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and Rapid City.
The orchestra, an acoustic ukulele group and program of the Custer Area Arts Council, performs all genres of secular music and consists of all sizes of acoustic ukuleles. Players of any level of expertise are welcomed to join, and teens and beginners are especially encouraged. The orchestra prides itself on professionalism, a positive attitude and dedication to teamwork, but most of all, they pride themselves on sharing the beauty of the ukulele with audiences through performances and a hands-on approach.
If three ukulele groups weren’t enough to satisfy your thirst for the mighty little instrument, then a fourth might just do the trick. The Ukulele Strummers of Rapid City aren’t active on social media, but a post on the Rapid City Journal indicates that the group meets Saturdays at 11:00am at Batchelder’s Plummer Piano & Organ, at 1301 W. Ohama St. The Strummers is a drop-in group that welcomes ukulele players of all ages and skill, and focuses on a fun atmosphere that is casual, relaxed and free of charge.
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