Friday mornings at the Mid County Senior Center, Ciro Milazzo hosts an hour of ukulele jamming and serenades. What began as a class five years ago has morphed into a collective of players that strum and jam together.
Often they venture into the community sharing the joy they experience with their historic instruments. Local senior facilities and other venues have put out welcome mats for this vivacious group and frequently enjoy their talents.
Members of this group include Alice Yerkes, also a member of the centers 90’s Club who is an established violinist. All the players like to have fun and a newer member, Beverly, is no exception.
She brings along a toy piano, complete with chandelier just for the fun of tuning their ukuleles! On any given Friday morning 10 or 15 musicians show up to have a good time. Ciro loves the jam sessions and how it has evolved with people on all levels contributing to each other’s growth and skills with food, music, and music making.
On the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad California’s website you find out that the ukulele originated in the 19th century as a Hawaiian adaptation of the four string Portuguese machete, a small guitar-like instrument.
A man named Manuel Nunes came to Hawaii On Aug 23, 1879 from Madeira Portugal with his friends to work the sugar cane fields and soon he developed the Hawaiian ukulele. Nunes was one of the earliest ukulele makers and operated his manufacturing company for over 40 years. Many of his handcrafted instruments bear the label “M. Nunes, Inventor of the Ukulele and Taro Patch Fiddles in Honolulu in 1879.”
Ciro credits his friend and Board Member of the Mid-County Senior Center, Tony Alonzo, with initiating the strummers about five years ago, Alonzo invited Ciro to play for the Senior Stretch Class and then suggested Ciro offer a Ukulele class on a regular schedule. Many of the regulars at the Uke Jam Sessions were introduced to the ukulele while attending the Senior Stretch Class.
Alonzo has been a volunteer at the center since 2000 and became a board member soon after. The now famous Tuesday Night Live (TNL) event started April 9, 2009 when Tony and his friends, Jim, Donna and Hedi first played together. Tuesday Night Live now averages 60 people as folks come together for food, friendship and music. Talented groups on the TNL stage (some with Ukes) include: Tin Pan Alley Cats, All Shook Up, “Roar Shack” and “Girls and Company.”
Ciro extends a welcome to those with or without ‘Uke” experience and assures that if you want, you too can learn the basics. He says most people are surprised at how quickly they learn to strum the chords and get with the beat. Once initiated members extend their ukulele talents to such Popular locations as the Yacht Harbor on Saturday mornings and the Capitola Bandstand on Sundays 10 – 11:30. a.m.
Ciro Milazzo hosts the “Uke Hour” 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. every Friday at the Mid-County Senior Center, 829 Bay Avenue, Capitola CA. MCSC is a member-owned non-profit center where individuals 50 years and older may pursue their interests in recreational, social, educational and health activities — open to members and the general public. www.mid-countyseniorcenter.com
Seniors In Action is created by “cj” each month to provide inspiration as well as recognition to our 50+ community. To share information about interesting talent and offerings for our population please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org Currently she is tracing her genealogy to find out if her grandfather Antonio Nunes from the Azores was related to the Uke man!
Photo: Caption: Mid County Pluckers (from left) Front Row: Alice, Jane, Nan, Linda • Back Row GiGi, Ciro Milazzo, Bev