Every Wednesday afternoon, the sounds of soft strumming and singing can be heard floating through the hall on the second floor of the Stoughton Area Senior Center.
The Yahara Strummers are at practice.
The Strummers are a ukulele group that formed in May. The group practices every week, and around eight to 10 join in the get-together, but the group is always rotating as new members join.
Ann Sawyer, the leader of the group, began playing the ukulele in February. She attended a Madison Area Ukulele Initiative (MAUI) lesson program, which eventually led her to bringing an instructor to the senior center for a five-week course that led to the start of the Yahara Strummers.
MAUI is a group of 900 ukulele players based in Madison. They hold classes and lessons around the Madison area.
“The MAUI event was a two-hour thing, I thought my fingers were going to fall off,” Sawyer said. “And here, we have a lot of fun – we’re all here for different reasons, but all of us love music.”
After the five-week course ended, Sawyer said she found the group wondering, “well, now what do we do?” So she reached out to senior center director Cindy McGlynn, who offered a weekly space to hold practice.
The practices are open for everyone, “oldies and newbies,” Sawyer said.
Some members are experienced and play several instruments, and some are new to playing, including Wendy Fendrick, who was part of the group of four last Wednesday when the Hub listened in on the practice.
“It’s so hard for me, I have no musical talent,” Fendrick said, to the group’s disagreement. “I just retired, so I’m starting to open up new doors so I figured I would try this.”
Despite a tough start, Fendrick has kept up with practicing, and she said it has been going well so far. So well, in fact, that the group hopes to perform during a lunch hour at the senior center in preparation of a Memory Cafe performance coming in the winter.
The group performs songs ranging from Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to Down in the Valley. They have a book of music, from the Fitchburg Ukulele Network, and sometimes tweak music depending on how well it’s received by the group.
“We sit down with the songs and sometimes, if we think it sounds terrible, someone will revise it a little,” Sawyer said.
While everyone is invited to attend, participants should have their own instrument. And depending on how comfortable each participant is, the group sings along to all of the songs they are performing.
“Some of us can sing, some of us can’t, some of us play better than others, but we don’t judge each other,” Sawyer said. “We’re learning and pushing ourselves, trying to introduce new things, so we can keep learning, progressing and having a good time.”