Solstice celebrations, IBMA volunteers

Plus some ukulele porn

I’m calling an audible. You’ll get my full Make Music Day treatment Friday. Before then, I’m hoping to speak with Rick Thurmond of Charlotte Center City Partners, the city’s economic development partnership. He’s part of the Music Everywhere Charlotte initiative and is the person in the know about challenges the Queen City has faced and is overcoming as we emerge from the pandemic. 

Another reason to wait: after an intensive search on that hard-to-navigate information locator Google, today I learned that Cary and Boone are part of Make Music Day 2021 as well! I hope to talk with the Cary organizers.

The Town of Cary is hosting a playalong for guitarists at 6:45 p.m. Boone is hosting a ukulele playalong at noon. (Rats! Can’t make the trek to the mountains.)

Both events are sponsored by C.F. Martin & Co., makers of fine guitars … and ukuleles. If not for ukuleles, Martin may not have survived the Great Depression. From a 2017 Ukulele magazine article commemorating the 100th anniversary of Martin’s first ukulele catalog: 

Martin’s success between 1922 and 1927 was unprecedented. Martin added a large new wing to the factory in 1924, and then needed to add a second floor to that wing the very next year, as sales continued to climb. It was likely the first time in the history of the company that it was completely unable to meet the demand for its instruments. The company even had to resort to something it never would have dreamed of just a few years earlier—turning away all new customers until it could catch up with the order backlog. Ukulele orders peaked in 1925, when approximately 15,000 ukuleles were ordered. However only about 11,000 could be built that year, and they started 1926 with over 5,000 ukuleles backordered. In 1926, Martin actually temporarily halted production of its most popular ukulele model—the Style 0—to help them catch up with demand. In 1926, Martin was able to produce over 14,000 ukuleles in the newly enlarged factory. By the end of 1926, after just 11 years in the ukulele business, Martin had produced nearly twice as many ukuleles as it had made guitars in the company’s entire 93-year history.

During the Depression, demand for new instruments cratered, but thanks to its ukulele sales, the company had enough cash to stay in business.

I’ve owned three Martins: the 0XK laminate soprano, a 1940s Style 2 soprano, and a modern C1K koa concert (alto scale). I still have the concert. I sold the other two (the vintage one was too fragile for my clunky playing; I got more for the 0XK than I paid for it!).

They know what they’re doing. The feel is fantastic and the tone warm and delightful.

Martin also made the only ukulele to go to the North Pole and return. It’s still around.

And the company produced and sold a Konter replica, with images of all the signatures etched into the instrument. They’re about $2 grand if you can find one.

Enough ukulele porn. Friday, I’ll share what I’ve learned about the challenges local organizers of Make Music Day events faced.


IBMA Bluegrass Live! update

The call for volunteers went out Tuesday. I applied.

Courtney Wheeler, membership director of Pinecone, said in an email they’ll need between 300 and 350 volunteers through the week. Volunteers commit to three four-hour shifts. Those who do get free admission to the “ramble” events — the downtown pub crawl Tuesday-Thursday nights; a t-shirt; free admission to the business meeting and the workshops; and discounted tickets to the awards show and the main event at Red Hat Amphitheatre. A good deal.

My friend Mitch Kokai has volunteered every year he wasn’t traveling. As a veteran broadcast journalist, he spent one festival emceeing events at the Ramble, introducing the acts. Another year he rode the shuttle between downtown and RDU International Airport, answering questions for visitors and the “talent.”

Pinecone also uses “Volunteer Team Leads” to make sure things run smoothly, Wheeler said. The team leads “act as our eyes and ears across the large festival footprint. Many of our volunteers have been assisting with the event since its move to Raleigh and often request to work the same positions every year. We also have volunteers who began assisting with the event before it's move to Raleigh and in 2019, we had at least one volunteer who has been volunteering with the event for 19 years!”

I’m trying to arrange a meeting with this volunteer. I’d love to share some of this person’s stories.

Let’s have a Martin luthier take us home with a few strums on the Konter replica.