Story and photos by Sam Shook
Music danced through the air at the Botanic Garden at Oklahoma State University. Bees flitted about as the sun shone through the gaps in the trees, casting shadows over a small band of ukulele players calling themselves the Misspent Ukes. They performed quite a variety of songs, at Pumpkin Palooza on a mid-October Saturday morning, from “Hotel California,” to “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” and even “The Purple People Eater” all masterfully with drums, cowbells, and, of course ukuleles. Their skills do not end with instruments; the band members have very harmonious singing voices.
The Misspent Ukes origins date back to 2013 when Kami Koontz picked up a ukulele at a flea market for her birthday; from there she taught herself to play and she hasn’t stopped playing it since. Unfortunately, she didn’t know anyone whom she could play with in the Stillwater area. After some time, she said she “…found a group in OKC and a group in Tulsa and started driving to each of those regularly. I wondered if a group like theirs could work in Stillwater, so I found a venue, decided on a day and time, started a Facebook group and hung flyers all around town.” Koontz, in July of 2014, founded the Stillwater Ukulele Association, and in November of that same year, she formed the group the Misspent Ukes.
“We started as a group who like to perform at senior living centers and it has grown from there. We have been asked by Stillwater Community Center and Downtown Stillwater to perform at various Stillwater community events, too,” said Koontz. All throughout the year you can find them performing; you might find them Christmas caroling or playing at Halloween festivals. They have also been asked by the Stillwater Public Library to create a program for the youth and seniors of Stillwater. They haven’t forgotten their roots, though; they still perform at retirement homes when they can. This is just scratching the surface of their philanthropic services to Stillwater.
When I met them, I asked how they felt after their performance. Kami said that, while it is a good way to see what songs need work, they also have a lot of fun doing it. The whole band agreed. Though the breeze was incessantly strong, and the bees sometimes flew uncomfortably close, the Misspent Ukes persisted in their performance. Even with the unseasonable heat and the sound system sometimes being finicky, faithful as the winds or tide they kept strumming. Every time they ended a song, they were met by the audience’s warm applause.
So, if you are ever in a farmer’s market, coffee shop, or just out and about during the holidays, and you hear them performing, be sure to drop by. Listen to a few songs. Shake their hands; get to know them. Thank them for all that they do, and leave a tip for them. Listening to the Misspent Ukes won’t be misspent time.
The Public Ukulele Movement Comes to Stillwater
Recently, the Stillwater Ukulele Association received a donation of an Oscar Schmidt 8-string tenor ukulele. The donor wanted it to be used to further the ukulele movement in Stillwater and the Payne County area so the Association put together a ukulele kit that includes this newly-restrung and set up Oscar Schmidt 8-string tenor ukulele, a gig bag, a tuner, a primer and a Daily Ukulele songbook (total retail value of $190). For a chance to win this Uke kit, purchase a raffle tickets for $1 each at Daddy O’s Music Co. until Dec. 6, 2016.
Funds raised will be used to purchase ukuleles and supplies for the new “Public Ukulele” movement starting in Stillwater and Payne County. The first Public Ukulele will be installed at Aspen Coffee at Fountain Square. The next installation of the Public Ukulele movement will be at the Stillwater Public Library, where there will be a “Take it, Play it” program for patrons to check out a ukulele kit and learn to play at home. The Association hopes to raise enough funds for a total of ten Public Ukuleles installed throughout the community by year’s end.
Funds remaining will go toward the Ukuleles in Schools initiative.
If you don’t want to purchase a raffle ticket for the ukulele kit, but would like to sponsor or host a Public Ukulele installation, please contact Kami Koontz.
The Stillwater Ukulele Association meets at Daddy O’s on the first and third Tuesday of each month from 6-7:30pm. Making the world a better place, one ukulele at a time.