Aloha City Ukes is keeping its music community alive with virtual ukulele lessons.
“The ukulele is a community,” said Aloha City Ukes’ Matt Cantlon. “A community of nice people, which is a great thing these days.”
The Highland Park shop specializes in a variety of quality made ukes, also known as the happiest instrument in the world. It’s ability to leave people feeling uplifted has made the virtual transition an easy one, with both group and private lessons.
“Sales have been good for us because people are at home and bored and looking for something to do,” Cantlon said. “This is something that’s not that expensive, it doesn't take a big commitment, and it makes people smile and we need more of that these days.”
Before the pandemic, people were encouraged to come into the store, pick out their own uke and begin free group lessons. The now virtual community has since grown, including among retirees. Why is playing the ukulele appealing for those who have retired?
“I think the appeal for retired people is it’s not that hard to play for one,” Cantlon said. “The guitar, violin, or piano – you have to put in a lot of hours to get decent. We’ll teach you within an hour, and you’ll leave knowing a couple songs. The other thing retired folks like about it, is it keeps your hands and your minds going, which is something when you stop doing what you were doing your whole life. You need something to do.”
Lessons have also been popular for children as young as 5 years old. It’s created a bonding experience for parent-child duos, like Matt and his daughter Daphne. She’s been playing since she was 7, and offered some advice for first-timers.
“Just be confident when you do it because it’s really fun and you’ll probably get the hang of it really fast,” Daphne Cantlon said.
“Music is really key right now,” Cantlon said. “If there’s ever a time we need an emotional lift, it’s now, and what better to provide that emotional lift than the happiest instrument on the planet?”
Lessons are every Sunday and Tuesday. For more information, visit Aloha City Ukes’ website.
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Note: This story will be updated with video.
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.