Gone are the days when Tiny Tim strummed a ukulele and warbled his signature rendition of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”
The tiny instrument is making a mighty comeback thanks to Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole’s poignant rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and YouTube favorite Jake Shimabukuro’s inventive pop song adaptations on the instrument.
Cincinnatian Greg Huntington understands the appeal. His company, True Joy Acoustics
, has been selling ukuleles for the past year. Yet this is far more than an online business venture. Since the company’s launch, it has donated one ukulele for every nine sold to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Music Therapy program
. And every ukulele kit is packaged by the Clovernook Center for the Blind, which pays visually-impaired workers through its Contract Packaging department.
“Unique is sort of an understatement; no one is doing what Greg is doing,” says Brian Schreck, Music Therapy Coordinator in the hospital’s Division of Child Life and Integrative Care. “He’s taking into account the business side of things and the community at large.” So far, True Joy Acoustics has donated seven ukuleles to the hospital, an instrument that Schreck finds very useful in his therapy.
“It’s the perfect size for anyone from a toddler to an adult, and it’s easy to play in a hospital bed.” Huntington’s ukuleles, made by a Connecticut manufacturer, also have a flat bottom, so they stand up easily on a night stand. Because these ukuleles are professional-grade, “there is such a difference when someone gets to play a real musical instrument rather than a toy or a lower-quality instrument,” says Schreck.
Including the instrument, picks, instruction books and a custom case made locally, ukulele kits called “Music Makers” offer “the basic skills for a lifetime of enjoyment of this instrument,” says Huntington. With increased efforts to accelerate the hospital’s donation program, Huntington hopes to put ukuleles in more people's hands. “It’s all about maximizing your success,” he says.
By Becky Johnson