Monday, 22 September 2014

Four Years of Uke Jam in Kingston

In the winter of 2010, Sylvana and I decided to move from Toronto to my hometown, Kingston. I knew I'd miss a few things about Toronto, especially the weekly Corktown Ukulele Jam. I decided that if Kingston didn't already have a regular ukulele jam, it would certainly have one once I got settled there. An so on Wednesday, September 29, 2010, nine ukulele players met for the first time at the Kingston School of Music. A few weeks later, we came up with the name "Kingston Ukulele Society".

For the first few months, attendance averaged about six or seven people. But we always had a problem scrounging for chairs and music stands. By the spring, interest started to grow a bit, and we were able to meet at the RCHA Club, which at the time was a popular venue for music.

Unfortunately, over the summer, several of our regulars moved away. Furthermore, the RCHA moved us from Wednesday evening to Monday evening. Attendance fell, and we changed to a once a month schedule. By the summer of 2012, I was ready to pack it in.

But then one of our former regulars returned. I decided to continue, but only if we could find a new venue and return to Wednesday evenings. He recommended the Royal Tavern, which came as a bit of a shock considering that bar's reputation. Some of us checked out their "back room", and we agreed that it would be an improvement over the RCHA. We would have easy parking, either on Princess Street or at the back. And we wouldn't have to take an elevator.

What a difference that made! Attendance started to pick up again. By the spring of 2014, we were back to a twice monthly jam. And we introduced a beginner's workshop to start out the jam, which has also proven popular.

Interest in ukulele in the general area has also increased. There are now monthly jams in Sydenham and Napanee.

What's next for the Kingston Ukulele Society? During our first year, we did a couple of performances at the RCHA and one at the Mug and Truffle, which were well received. When attendance started to flag, during 2012, we stopped doing performances. While attendance picked up once we were at the Royal, monthly jams made it difficult to practice repertoire. However, in early October, we're back on stage with a 30 minute performance at the Sustainable Kingston KingstonFest.

My next goal is to put together a group of ukulele players from the ranks of regular jam attendees who are willing to commit to regular practice sessions in addition to the twice monthly jams, for the purpose of public performances. The primary goal of such a group would be to have fun making music while entertaining audiences. I'm not looking for great ukulele players, just players willing to make a commitment, and wanting to have fun.

Cheers! Hans