Ukulele jams pick up steam in Sound Sound

By Steve Dunkelberger on June 23, 2012

The underground movement to bring the glories of the ukulele to the masses has added yet another sleeper cell in the South Sound.

Riding the wave of Eddie Vedder's "Ukulele Songs" CD last year and the recent sellout show at the Rialto by ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro (who is known as the Jimi Hendrix of the four-string), Ted Brown Music is now playing host to "Uke ‘an Jam" song circle at 6:30 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday.

On about a week's notice, the first circle strum drew about 20 people, from mom-and-son duos to retirees, remembering their ill-spent youth on the beaches of Hawaii or California. Everyone seems to have a "ukulele story."

Robert "Joey" Stofle, for example, leads the group and started playing the uke about 10 years ago as a way to celebrate his stepchildren's Hawaiian heritage.

"It's important to keep that language and the culture alive," he said.

While Stofle also teaches mandolin, banjo, guitar and "everything that is fretted and stringed," he has seen a recent spike in ukulele students. That rise prompted Ted Brown to host the free ukulele song circle in much the same way it has done for drummers for more than 10 years.

"They really want to connect with the community and bring people together," Stofle said.

Few things connect people like strumming a ukulele.

(Ted Brown Music, 6228 Tacoma Mall Boulevard, Tacoma,, 800.562.8938)

Other ukulele circles

Ukulele Ohana meets at 5:30 p.m. every Monday at the Queens' Closet, 9614 40th Ave SW in Lakewood. While the first hour is instructional, the rest of the night is a song circle and potluck that draws between 20 and 40 people of all ages and abilities from around the South Sound.

Washington Association of South Sound Ukulele Players meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month from 6:30 to 8:30 PM in Tacoma at Point Defiance Village, (6414 North Park Way. All are welcome watch, join in and learn or just hang around and enjoy all things ukulele.