One might not think that attending a holiday fundraiser could result in the start of a senior ukulele group, unless of course they know longtime community activist Mickey Peabody.
Two years ago this holiday season, Peabody attended the Stanislaus Senior Foundation holiday fundraiser. As she assessed the silent auction items, her eye was caught, of all things, by a ukulele.
“I made it a goal to win the ukulele,” she said, noting her intent was to start a ukulele group in Oakdale.
“When I was a kid ukuleles were really cheap,” she pointed out. “Doesn’t every kid get a ukulele?”
Not taking a chance and noting the auction sales were for a good cause, Peabody entered a bid to ensure the ukulele would leave with her … and it did.
As it turned out, the instrument was donated by the leaders of the Turlock based senior group, The Sunshine Strummers. Not only were leaders Dan and Kathy Murray present at the event, they offered to help Peabody get her own group started.
No stranger to making things happen, Peabody solicited the help of Recreation Services Supervisor Linda Royalty at the Gladys Lemmons Senior Center.
“Not everybody has a ukulele in their closet, but a lot of people do,” Peabody said. “They go to Hawaii and that’s the thing to do ... buy a ukulele.”
To ensure that the start-up of The Oakdale Silver Strummers (TOSS) had the essentials needed, Peabody returned to the Stanislaus Senior Foundation and applied for a grant. A generous amount of $1,800 was awarded which covered seven instruments, cases, tuners and stands.
“Kathy and Dan told us the basics,” Peabody shared of starting the group, “and then we put the word out there that we had seven ukuleles to loan.
“It’s the easiest instrument to learn,” she continued. “It’s not about if we’re going to be concert performers, it’s about having fun.”
And fun they do have.
So much fun in fact, that the group grew to 30 members and now has a beginners group as well.
“People think we’re so proficient they don’t join,” she said of hesitant beginners, “because we sing loud.”
Peabody touts the vocal accompaniment of the members as the piece de resistance, sharing that some members may ‘air strum’ and sing.
“You don’t have to make every chord,” she chuckled. “We strive to have a good time.”
Not only did the popularity lead to a beginners group, but a hula group as well. The hula group accompanies TOSS when they perform for various groups and organizations, as well as at care facilities.
“I was stunned,” gig master Peabody said of its popularity, “because we only talked about it at the Senior Center. We’re always looking to expand.”
Peabody shared the group is open to any and all seniors.
“I knew it would happen,” she said of the group’s beginning, “because seniors … people have the wrong idea when they hear ‘seniors.’ We’re viable; interesting … life goes on for us.”
No past musical experience is required to join. And while they don’t charge to perform at varying locations, donations are encouraged.
“We have slight expenses to sustain the group,” Peabody said, pointing to sheet music and instrument maintenance among the group expenses. “It’s up to the groups to keep it going.”
For additional information on TOSS beginners or veteran groups, contact Linda Royalty at 845-3566 or Peabody at 471-9859.
“We’re just fortunate to have a great senior facility,” Peabody said of the Senior Center. “I think this is another one of the jewels in the crown of Stanislaus County.”