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Thursday August 5th

Ukulele chorus keeps high standards for performance while staying true to roots

(From left to right) Hailey Haymond, Anna Sharpe, Kate Aberman and Caroline Porter, members of the Carolina Ukelele Ensemble, give an impromptu performance in Polk Place on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.
Buy Photos (From left to right) Hailey Haymond, Anna Sharpe, Kate Aberman and Caroline Porter, members of the Carolina Ukelele Ensemble, give an impromptu performance in Polk Place on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.

At new student orientation, the mention of the diverse clubs, organizations and groups on campus is frequently repeated. The existence of the Carolina Ukulele Ensemble (CUE) only serves to reinforce this. 

Created in 2010 by Jeff Hymes, CUE is the world’s first collegiate ukulele ensemble. Kayla Richardson-Piche, a junior and the musical director for the ensemble, said the group came into existence in a care-free fashion. 

“It was just a bunch of friends who got together to play the ukulele and jam,” Richardson-Piche said, but the group soon evolved as they gained more members.

With an increased membership came all sorts of different musical stylings, so the chorus decided they wanted to tackle more difficult material, Richardson-Piche said. This wish for higher quality material eventually drove the members of CUE to adopt the group’s current structure of being an auditioned ensemble. 

Despite requiring auditions, the knowledge and skill required for joining is not strict. 

“It (auditioning) is not especially rigorous, but it is certainly competitive just because we have 30 people auditioning and we can only fill about five or six spots," said Kate Aberman, a senior and president of the ensemble. 

Aberman said there is no required skill level, and auditioning is meant to highlight each person’s unique talent and personality.

“Don’t doubt what you can do," Aberman said. "We just want someone who is well rounded and has the same passions about the ukulele that we do."

Besides being the world’s first collegiate ukulele ensemble, CUE has gained the informal title of the happiest group on campus, Aberman said. 

“The people we’re surrounded with and the songs that we sing go hand in hand in giving us that name. The ukulele is also generally thought to be a happy instrument. It’s very hard to play a sad or an angry song on it,” Aberman said. 

“I think, even though we want to put on a good show and we all take what we do seriously, we want to have fun and we want the audience to have fun too,” said Erin Scannell, a senior and the group’s gig coordinator.

Scannell, who joined the group her junior year after not being accepted during her first year or sophomore year, said the Carolina Ukulele Ensemble was one of the many reasons she chose to come to UNC.

“They came to play at my high school when I was a senior," Scannell said. "Seeing them was one of the reasons I wanted to come here, but not one of the main reasons, of course."

Richardson-Piche said CUE’s main goal on campus is to provide people with a place where they can play the ukulele, have fun and hone their talents.  

arts@dailytarheel.com

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