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  • Eugene high school ukulele players show pluck

  • After six years of steady strumming and plucking, the North Eugene Ukulele Orchestra has brought out its first album.
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  • After six years of steady strumming and plucking, the North Eugene Ukulele Orchestra has brought out its first album.
    "Uke Family Album," which will be available for $12, offers eight covers of pop songs by other groups and one original song by two members of the band, who are all students at North Eugene High School.
    The popular student orchestra, with 14 members this school year, plays just about any kind of music — besides Hawaiian.
    "That would be too expected," said Audrey Martin, a North Eugene senior who's in her fourth year with the group. "Ain't nobody got time for that."
    The new album features covers of songs by the Grateful Dead, Gotye, Noah and the Whale and Modest Mouse, among others.
    At a recent practice session at North, Martin explained that she joined up to counteract freshman shyness.
    "My older sister, who I really looked up to, was in the club," she said. "That's how I made a lot of friends."
    Playing with the orchestra has helped her navigate a personal barrier.
    "This is the first time I've ever sung in public," she said.
    With students at various levels of musical accomplishment, the orchestra offers roles from lead vocal and complex finger-picking to more straightforward chord strumming.
    Arrangements are by Aaron Thomas, a language arts teacher who started the group after watching another musician play the ukulele.
    The best pieces for the uke orchestra are melodic, pop-oriented songs, Thomas said.
    "I tried to do a Fugazi '80s punk song once. It just lost the edginess."
    One feature of the orchestra is that every aspiring student player who wants to take part can get a free ukulele to play and ultimately to keep.
    The cost of those instruments has been covered by fees for concert performances the group gives around town.
    The new CD was financed in part by a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign raised $1,593 from 79 backers, exceeding its goal of $1,450.
    The album was produced by local recording engineer John Heller, who donated his time.
    Income from CD sales will be used to buy instruments, cover transportation costs for concerts and keep the musicians fueled with pizza.
    "We play some pretty cool indie songs," Martin said. "We've had people play everything from bluegrass to the B-52s."
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