No strings attached | September 6, 2019 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - September 6, 2019

No strings attached

Library's free drop-in ukulele lessons draw devoted fans

by Nisha Malley

The sound of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," originating from 30 strumming ukuleles and singing voices, carried into the main halls of the Mountain View Public Library in the early evening Aug. 26, during the monthly Ukulele Play and Sing Along event.

Roughly 15 regulars, along with eager first-timers and curious passersby, filled the room, grabbing instruments and guidebooks with sheet music and instructions for playing chords, which are funded by the Friends of the Mountain View Library.

The program, which got its start five years ago, primarily caters to beginners of all ages, using simple lesson plans and offering over 400 songs from the 1950s to the 2000s.

However, librarian and program coordinator Kyle Hval said he has seen a cohort of people return year after year, whether for the family bonding, community of musical enthusiasts or the opportunity to get out and relax on a weekday.

"People always leave with a smile on their face," Hval said. "It's rare to have an environment where you can bring together people from such different ages and backgrounds toward a common purpose."

The first 60 minutes of the class are devoted to structured learning, during which teacher Chuck Monahan guides the group in song and shows them proper fingering techniques.

In the last half hour, attendees request their favorite songs. Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," the Eagles' "Hotel California," and Benny Bell's "Shaving Cream" consistently make an appearance, Hval said.

Palo Alto resident Sabrina Johnson said she bought a ukulele after a trip to Hawaii, but despite good intentions, it sat in her closet for a year until she began attending the library's program.

Johnson, who works as a lawyer, said the event has helped her to "shift gears and de-stress" and nurture her love of music.

For a little over a year, Gary Guiffre has brought his grandkids to the class, using his time to keep up his ukulele skills and meet new people. Guiffre said he has also learned to play the mandolin, guitar and bass in his spare time.

According to Monahan, the ukulele is an ideal starting instrument for those wishing to become more musically capable, adding that the low learning curve allows students to pick up several songs in just an hour of instruction.

Monahan noted that the library program offers a welcoming and pressure-free environment to learn the instrument.

"The beauty of playing in a large group is you can play the wrong chords. You can sing in the wrong key," Monahan said. "Some people will stress out (but) if you get a single chord, you're doing great."

The Ukulele Play and Sing Along program is free and open to the public. The class is usually held on the fourth Monday of every month, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the program room of the Mountain View Public Library. For more information visit the library's event calendar mountainview.gov/depts/library/.

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