Library offers summer crash course
By Scott Bellile
The ukulele conjures up thoughts of sandy beaches and rippling ocean tides. But it turns out an aspiring musician needn’t venture far for some free summertime lessons.
Hortonville High School Band Director Greg Forton kicked off a beginner ukulele class at Hortonville Public Library this month. The program averaged a dozen participants from across the Fox West Area its first two weeks, showing people are eager to learn.
“We’re starting at complete basic,” Forton said at a session June 21. “They’ve never touched the instrument before, so last week we learned how to hold it and how to strum it.”
The class runs the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 6 p.m. through Aug. 16. Participants can borrow an instrument there if they don’t own one.
Many families of Hortonville students are already connected with ukuleles. Forton’s popular Ukulele Orchestra formed at HHS in 2010—Forton learned the instrument along with the students after he saw his daughter play one over Skype. The group has competed in district and state solo and ensemble festivals. It started the 2015-16 academic year with 58 musicians.
Then in March and April, 250 band students and their supporters flew to Hawaii for a performance trip. As expected, many travelers brought home ukuleles.
That perhaps explains why most participants brought their own to the library June 21. Seven of Forton’s “loaner” ukes leaned against the wall untouched.
Ruth Stein of Greenville said her son Jacob Stein was part of the Hawaii trip. She said she came to the library’s class because she’s always wanted to learn ukulele.
“I just want to be able to pull it out at campfires and get through the songs with my family,” Stein said.
Sixteen-year-old Reegan Van Camp, a Ukulele Orchestra member, said he’s enjoyed playing at HHS. He brought his mother Sarah Rose and 12-year-old sister Breleigh to the library to learn.
“It’s always just a lot of fun,” Reegan Van Camp said.
Forton said the ukulele is the easiest string instrument to learn, plus it’s versatile across genres like pop, country, jazz and blues.
Additionally, he said a beginner models starts at $25. His wife Kay Forton, library assistant, said the affordability has helped the ukulele enjoy success during times of economic turmoil, particularly the Great Depression.
Greg Forton said his goal is the group learns all the major and minor chords popular in pop music by the end of the summer. He said the group will learn music by the Beatles, Old Crow Medicine Show, Bruno Mars and Jason Mraz along with a few originals written by group members.
“It’s really nice to have the community members excited about it, too, not just the students,” he said about playing ukulele.