United for ukes! Westport Library meetups strike a chord with ukulele lovers

Although the Westport Library is known as a tech-savvy incubator, leading the way with 3-D printing to robots to its MakerSpace, a far more traditional pursuit has struck a chord among patrons.

Organized during the summer, the monthly Ukulele Meetup regularly attracts a hostof players, beginners and experienced alike.

“It’s really fun,” said Meg Padden of Fairfield. “It’s an awesome setting for everyone to learn and share their love for ukuleles.”

The program was the brainchild of Deborah White, a children’s librarian with an interest in music. “A couple of years ago my daughter kindly gave me a ukulele as a gift,” she said, after having heard the instrument and falling in love with the sound.

“I thought, ‘What a fun library program this would be and I’ll bet I’m not the only person who had a secret longing to play the ukulele,’ ” she said, “and what better place than your local library?”

The first informal gathering, or “meetup,” attracted 15 people.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Martha Kaufman, who came from New Rochelle, N.Y. She has experience with classical music, but wanted to get involved with something her granddaughter also is interested in.

“It’s just cool to pick up and play,” said Zach Rosenberg, 14, of Westport. “Plus, it’s really cheap.” His sole interest had just been to learn some kind of stringed, instrument, but now his horizons are expanding. “I’ve discovered there’s a whole community of us.”

“It’s really easy, small and portable, so I picked it up and learned to play,” said Bryan Garbe, a professional musician from Brooklyn, N.Y., who volunteered to teach at some of the meet ups.

“It’s just spreading good vibes to everybody,” he said of the instrument. “That’s the best part about it. It puts a smile on everybody’s face.”

“It’s very light and happy,” said Robin Bucci of Fairfield, who was also helping teach. “It’s easy to get started,” she said, “and you can keep progressing as far as you want to go.”

The meet up attracted people of varying abilities, including experienced musicians who have played one or more instruments for some time. There was a range of ages represented, from grandparents to youngsters.

“I’m really excited,” said Edwin Gregor, 11, of Norwalk. “I hope to have fun.”

“It was so fun,” said Helen Glenn of Westport, who attended the first meet up and returned for the second. “I really enjoyed it. There was all levels of play. A lot of people really seem interested. It was just really enjoyable.”

“I thought it was really good,” said Pat Blaufuss of Westport, an experienced musician who inherited her 60-year-old Martin ukulele from her mother. “There are different levels, but you can always learn a little something, and I did … And it’s fun to play with a group. It’s very motivating.”

“I think it’s really an easy instrument to play,” she said. “You can start playing a song really soon and you can really have an instant gratification.”

To help facilitate the meet up, the library purchased two ukuleles that can be loaned, and they already have seen regular use. White said that, given the apparent interest, more may be needed.

“I’m pretty new, but I play classical guitar,” said Linda Kessler of Weston. “It’s a lot easier because there are four strings instead of six (and) and fingerboard is just softer, easier to press.”

“That why the ukulele is an instrument that everybody wants to play, because it’s so easy to play,” said Garbe, a drummer in the group Dis-Able Time.

“It’s so sweet,” said Blaufuss, “and it’s so mellow and it’s so accessible.”

The next Ukulele Meetup is set for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Westport Library. To register and for more information, visit http://bit.ly/1WdQFio .