When you think of an orchestra, you traditionally think of both wind and string-based classical instruments. The Lawrence Arts Center is shaking that up by bringing back a program in January called the Ukulele Orchestra.
The Ukulele Orchestra is a 16-week class where five to 15 students will learn songs on the ukulele to prepare to perform as a group at various locations around Lawrence.
The class has been taught in the past but the previous teacher moved to Kansas City, leaving the orchestra behind.
Matthew Mulnix, the new instructor for the class, has been teaching music for 11 years and currently works at the American Music Academy. He heard about the opportunity from his coworker, who was approached after the Arts Center decided to revamp the program after hearing that people missed it.
Mulnix said he’s ready to teach a ukulele-based class at the Lawrence Arts Center because the instrument appeals to a wide array of audiences.
“For guitar and other instruments like that, you need a couple weeks to build up calluses and finger strength to play even the simplest songs,” Mulnix said. “Ukulele has an easy barrier to entry and the chords are not hard to form. You can have a child playing a song after a few weeks of instruction.”
Amanda Pintore, the associate director of performing arts and education at the Lawrence Arts Center, said that a big part of bringing the orchestra back is that it brought the community together.
“My favorite part about the orchestra is that it is multigenerational so student-wise, there’s not many classes out there for both youth and adults," Pintore said. "It really is mixed skill level and mixed age. We had really great success with bringing multiple generations together and people missed that.”
Pintore also mentioned how Mulnix has brought in a fresh new group to really revitalize the program as a whole and allow students to have an enhanced learning experience.
“It’s been really beautiful because we’re bringing back a lot of students that took this course before but Matthew’s bringing a whole new group to the Arts Center,” Pintore said. “It’s not just about learning from the instructor, it’s about learning inside the community with the mixed skill set of participants.”
Mulnix is especially excited due to the environment that Lawrence provides to both musicians and music-lovers.
“The music community here is awesome, this is the best you can get in the Midwest,” Mulnix said. “That community is really what brought me here.”
The orchestra will host its first class on Jan. 7 and accepts anyone with a ukulele and a will to learn.