At age 15 Killian Mansfield started a small ukulele group while in hospice care. Killian wanted his mom and dad (Babs and Phil Mansfield) to keep the group going, saying, “The world would be less pissed off if everyone played ukulele.” Killian passed away at age 16 in 2009, but the Mansfields have started ukulele collections in their area to honor Killian's wish that everyone chill out, meet new people, and play ukulele.
The Catskill Ukulele Group tried meeting in parks, restaurants, community centers, people’s homes, music stores, and then finally the library in Phoenicia NY, where Babs and Phil noticed patrons could check out fishing poles. If you can check out a fishing pole, you sure as hootenanny should be able to check out a ukulele at a library. After feeling like a band of outsider nomads, libraries became true homes.
Our library partners help disseminate CUG meeting and event news, are welcoming and offer their spaces for free, serve as a consistent first line of communication for people seeking players and groups to entertain at retirement homes, parties, and community events, and house and track ukulele collections for loan, as well as ukulele songbooks.
Catskill Ukulele Group is a collective that currently meets at three libraries in the Catskills/Hudson Valley region of NY: Phoenicia Library, Olive Free Library and Town of Ulster Library—all part of the Mid-Hudson Library system. If you have a Mid-Hudson library card, you can check out a ukulele and books (mostly Daily Ukulele and Daily Ukulele Leap Year) at one of these CUG libraries. At present, each library has between 12 and 24 ukuleles for loan.
Folks tend to come and go to CUG meetups as they can fit them into their schedules. However, there is a subset of steady CUG volunteers at the libraries that anchors each group. Attendees range in age from about six to 90. CUG has sponsored programs at elementary and high schools. Inquire at one of these libraries if you're interested in hiring a teaching artist. CUG has also run a summer camp at the Olive Library. Each CUG library welcomes all players—regardless of experience level. Some CUG libraries host weekly meetings, and some monthly. The meetings are similarly structured: they start at beginner level so that each attendee can leave playing at least one song, and wind up with strumming/picking sessions of more advanced songs, or sometimes rehearsals for shows.