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Stillwater organization gives away hundreds of ukuleles

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Students smile for a picture while holding their ukuleles.

A Stillwater woman is spreading her love of music, one ukulele at a time.

Kami Koontz visits local schools, libraries and businesses giving away free ukuleles from the Stillwater Ukulele Association.

Koontz founded the organization in 2014 and began Ukuleles in Schools and the Public Ukulele Movement. The goal of these initiatives is to donate ukuleles to expose more people to music. 

Daddy O’s Music Co. sponsors the Stillwater Ukulele Association and is a contributor to Ukuleles in Schools. 

“We just really like having music in the school systems and seeing that flourish because oftentimes that’s the first area to get cut in a lot of school systems,” said Hayden Harris from Daddy O’s Music Co. “We just want to see music and arts be more impactful in different schools in the community.” 

So far, with help from Amahi Ukuleles, Hal Leonard Publishing, Stillwater Arts and Humanities Council, and Daddy O’s Music Co., the Stillwater Ukulele Association has donated 220 ukuleles to 19 schools, four ukuleles to local businesses and five ukulele kits to libraries.

The libraries have a “Take it, Play it” program in which ukulele kits can be checked out and returned about two weeks later. Koontz donated the ukulele kits, which include a ukulele with a padded gig bag, a song book and the same book Koontz used when she was learning how to play.

Koontz said she has one ukulele left and hopes to put it on the Oklahoma State University campus somewhere. 

The Stillwater Ukulele Association hosts meetings the first and third Tuesday of each month at Daddy O’s Music Co.

At the beginning of each meeting, instructors hold a beginner’s lesson, so experience playing the ukulele or reading music isn’t necessary. Daddy O’s lends ukuleles for the meetings in case attendees don’t already own one.

Koontz said the meetings are inclusive to people of all skill levels and ages.

“It’s the safest, most supportive environment,” she said. “It's such a community.”

Blayne Mayfield, an OSU computer science professor, has been a part of the association since its beginning. 

“It can be intimidating when you’re starting something like playing a musical instrument to going to a group that’s already established,” he said. “This is very beginner friendly, and we have beginners to what I’d call experts.”

Koontz said she wants to get word out to encourage more college students to join. Ultimately, she said she hopes to motivate people to try the ukulele.

“Even if people decide to just try us out and then decide to buy one and just pop in on occasion and learn on their own, it doesn’t matter to me,” Koontz said. “I just think the more people playing the ukulele, the better.”