MAUI group understood best as a class which became a community

David Broyles Staff Reporter

December 8, 2013

The Mount Airy Ukulele Invasion (MAUI) group is best viewed as a class that became a community. The group followed up a successful opening concert with 17 performers on stage and performing in the Mount Airy Christmas Parade with a holiday concert in the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History Saturday morning.

Founders George and Gin Smith appear pleased — and surprised — by the response to the group which started out as a ukulele class at Old Mill Music this past summer. While tuning up before the performance, musicians said they have found out playing the infamous four-stringed instrument has been more fun than they imagined.

George Smith said Gin and her friend Grace Kish decided to start the group because they just wanted a chance to play. He said performers in MAUI range from 4 years to 74 years old. Smith was born and raised in Mount Airy and began playing guitar at the age of 14. He has played various genres on different instruments in several bands and shared the stage with Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, Darius Rucker, the Drive By Truckers and Ralph Stanley.

“It’s been a really fun experience,” said Smith, who said he plays many different instruments in addition to teaching. “We have quite a big range in our repertoire like Green Day, Hank Williams and we even played Pink Floyd’s The Wall which was fun for those of us in the group who are educators. We like to mix it up.”

Smith said he is working on new arrangements for the group and hinted the group may be offering a little bit of “California Dreaming” to play away the winter blues. He said the most gratifying thing for him as a teacher of the instrument is how Maui has developed into a diverse group of new friends.

“This started out as a class and its just become a wonderful thing,” said Smith. He said the next round of classes is planned for Jan. 21 and he hopes to add tunes from Nirvana, the Mammas and the Papas and perhaps even The Beatles. MAUI’s next performance is slated at Round Peak Vineyards on Saturday at 3 p.m. Persons interested in the classes may contact Smith at 648-0136 or at

He said there really does seem to be a rebirth of interest in the ukulele of late and said the variety of videos on YouTube is inspiring with a variety of styles and techniques applicable to the instrument. He said there are even large ukulele orchestras now.

“It’s a crazy inspiration,” said Smith. “I think the interest in a lot of old instruments is coming back.”

He said the ukulele is an inviting and happy sounding instrument. Smith explained that the typical instrument’s four strings are easier to press down that a guitar, for instance and it is relatively easy to play.

“It’s a fun, forgiving instrument too,” said Smith. It allows for a lot of different strumming patterns which can come together to make a gig sound.”

He said he is producing numerous musical recordings, or tracks, for use with the class which demonstrate finger picking and strumming on various types of ukulele and hopes the videos will help his students.

Reach David Broyles at or 719-1952.