TRAVERSE CITY — Rachel Jones learned to play the ukulele from a book but didn’t perform for an audience until attending the Halifax International Busker Festival three weeks ago.
“I did my first busking and I have my first Looney in my pocket,” said Jones, referring to the Canadian one dollar coin, which bears images of the common loon.
The four-stringed instrument that once was considered a novelty has enjoyed a resurgence of late, thanks in part to its affordabil-
ity and portability, and in part to Internet and YouTube videos of virtuoso uke musicians like Jake Shimabukuro.
Now there are ukulele enthusiasts and clubs the world over. The latest: The Traverse City Uke Group.
The group met and jammed for the first time Aug. 21, organized by Jones and friend and roommate Laura Nardon, both of Traverse City. About eight friends and uke players gathered at the Grand Traverse Veterans Memorial Park on the grounds of the Grand Traverse Commons, where they gave an impromptu concert for an extended family picnicking at the nearby pavilion.
“I just came out for a barbecue for my grandma’s 96th birthday,” said Josh Rothwell, of Kingsley, who sat on the grass with his niece Sadie Young, 1, to listen. “It’s like a bonus for us.”
Jones said she got the idea to start the group after attending a uke workshop at a recent musical festival.
“They said their goal is to have a club within a 30-mile radius of every city,” said Jones, who began playing the uke two or three years ago while on a vacation to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with her partner, who brought along his instrument. “We’re trying to do it monthly, but it just depends on who shows up and what they want to see.”