‘Sales are smokin-meltdown hot’

Ukuleles are hot for business and fun in the Midcoast

Sat, 01/18/2014 - 3:00pm

    ROCKLAND — Gordon Page, of Owls Head, facilitates a group of ukulele players that meet every Thursday evening at the Hampton Inn in Rockland. It’s not a class and there are no music lessons, but what the group does is play. They get together and play their ukuleles for no other reason but the enjoyment of interacting with other players. Ukuleles, in the words of Harvey Curtis and Mac Economy of K2 Music, are “smoking-molten hot right now.”

    Members of Page’s group said they were all beginners and enjoyed getting together immensely. Suzanne DeMass, of South Thomaston, said she borrowed her granddaughter’s to learn how to play. 

    “It’s really so easy to learn,” said Page. “It’s so basic anybody can learn how to play. We all work together and there are different skill levels. I’ve been a great air guitar player for years, but not a musician.”

    Marilyn Harrington, also of South Thomaston, said her son had designed and sold custom ukuleles for years and she just decided to start playing. She’s had her ukulele for two months. Harrington’s son’s ukuleles can be seen at Once a Tree in Camden.

    Susan Jones has a degree in music and a master’s degree in choral conducting. She teaches at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro. She said she purchased her ukulele last Christmas as a present to herself, but she has only played it a few times. So far, it’s been fun, she said.

    Harvey Curtis and Mac Economy of K2 music are having a Uke Night Friday, Jan. 24, from 6 to 8 p.m.

    They both agreed that ukuleles are the biggest small instrument out there right now

    “Ukuleles have become part of every facet of society, from kids learning how to play to older and senior adults beginning to play,” said Economy. “We sell $39.95 ukes and we sell multi-hundred dollar ukes, and everywhere in between. They are that hot. We have to reorder more every other week .”

    Harvey Curtis said they were wondering just how many people might show up and agreed it was a weather-driven thing.

    “You don’t have to bring your instrument; you can bring your instrument, just show up,” said Curtis. “You can play if you want or you can just watch. Howard Greenberg, of Thomaston, will be here and he is not only an amazing player, but he’s a historian on the instrument, as well. Frets Halligan, from Belfast, who has been probably one of the first of the guys to get the whole thing going in terms of playing and groups, will be here. He’s been doing it awhile both teaching and facilitating. Jeff Weinburger, who teaches here at K2 Music and teaches ukulele over at Bay Chamber, and Jess Day, who teaches ukulele for young kids here at K2, will both be here.”

    Economy said it’s about people connecting in the uke community, because it has turned into a community, a phenomena where people get together.

    “There are several uke groups in the area,” he said. “The people who go to them and the facilitators — we won’t call them teachers, because they really aren’t a lesson program. It’s more about getting together and playing. So, we’re trying to connect people who are interested in ukulele groups.”

    The Music After Hours series will happen every month. K2 is going to have a different music social get together with a different theme.

    “We’re kicking it off with the biggest small instrument that’s out there, the ukulele,” said Economy. “Next month is going to be blue grass. Come hang out, meet some people, ask some questions, play some music if you want. It’s all about people meeting people and connecting.”

    “We know there’s a car-load of people coming from Ellsworth and we’ve sold ukuleles to people as far away as Portland,” said Curtis. 

    “Just like with acoustic guitars, Harvey and I have gone into it looking at it as a serious instrument,” said Economy. “We learned about them, the construction of them and what they are so that when someone comes in it’s not just a ukulele, it’s a real valid instrument. And there are some real virtuosos out there. I’ve played guitar for 30 some years and there are people out there who play ukulele who scare me, that’s how good they are.”