Local ukulele orchestra performs for advice to give back to the community
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG / WECP) – If you’ve ever dined in the St. Andrews area, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the Ukulele Orchestra of St. Andrews. You can hear them perform at Alice’s on Bayview in Panama City every third Wednesday of the month. They are known to play the hits you love, just like the ukulele.
“One of our favorite sayings is that we are the best ukulele orchestra in St. Andrews, and we are the only ukulele orchestra in St. Andrews,” said Mary Jo Howard, a member of the orchestra for over four years.
The orchestra started in 2014 when a group of friends wanted to have fun.
âWe bought 10 ukuleles and that’s really how it all started,â said Pat Syfrett, member of the Ukulele Orchestra of St. Andrews.
Since then, 10 ukuleles have grown to over 40, playing this cheerful little instrument for events across the region.
âIt’s been a blast since then,â Howard said.
But this little hobby that they love has become an act of love. The orchestra eventually became a 501 (c) (3) organization. Play for advice to give back.
âWe love it and it gives us great pleasure to help the community,â said Syfrett.
âIt blesses us as much as it blesses others,â Howard said.
And a blessing they’ve been, just ask Bay High School.
Julia Ward has just started teaching the ukulele to students in her music class at Bay High.
âA lot of what I use in my classroom I buy out of pocket. But a classroom ukulele set is definitely not in my personal budget, âsaid Ward, general music teacher at Bay High School.
It was hard for her to imagine that she could ever afford ukuleles for an entire class. But luckily Lisa Deaton, another Bay High teacher, played in the ukulele orchestra.
âIt took about a day to get a response and they (the orchestra) said how much you needed,â Deaton said.
The ukulele orchestra gave them everything they needed and more. Pay for an entire classroom full of ukuleles for Ms. Deaton’s specialty class.
âThey run from my class to the choir, it’s wonderful,â Deaton said.
A wonderful feeling, especially when it makes a difference in the lives of the students.
“I get gifts from little kids who write music and they were like we were very shocked that it was coming from this person and I just see them blossoming in a way that maybe they couldn’t in. outside of the classroom, âsaid Julia.
And for Julia, it means a little more to see her students flourish.
âIt hits me very hard. Because I know, my sister has no verbal skillsâ¦ I know how huge it is, âsaid Julia.
This is why music is called the universal language.
âIt’s a happy by-product of making great music, but above all it’s the tool,â said Julia.
And who knew that one of the smaller instruments could play such a big role. All from this little orchestra, playing on these little sensitive strings.
In addition to the ukuleles for the class, the grant money also paid for the tuners.
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