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World-Renowned Ukulele Player? Yes, There is Such a Thing

Mainstage Center for the Arts will bring Jake Shimabukuro to Camden County College's Dennis Flyer Theatre next month.

Jake Shimabukuro, a ukulele virtuoso who has taken the world by storm and stretched the boundaries of the instrument like none other, will perform in Camden County for one night only as Mainstage Center for the Arts proudly presents "An Evening with Jake Shimabukuro" on Sunday, April 15, in Blackwood.

Compared to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, Shimabukuro’s live concerts are an out-of-the-box blend of stunning virtuosity, deep musicality and a natural entertainer’s flair.

CNN’s “Next List” feature stated: “Shimabukuro's approach to songs on the ukulele often shatters convention. There's an unexpected sophistication that defies the instrument's perceived limitations. His musical palette is eclectic— encompassing rock, jazz, old 'uke' standards, and covers of songs no one would ever think to play.”

(Ed. note: You've really got to see Shimabukuro play Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody.")

Born and raised in Hawaii, Shimabukuro began playing the ukulele at age four. For many years, he strummed traditional Hawaiian songs on the four-string, two-octave instrument. His fondness for Top 40 music eventually inspired him to play along with the radio. He began playing regularly at a local café, where his talent and reputation blossomed. Then, a video of Shimabukuro playing George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in Central Park went viral and sky-rocketed his career. In an interview on WHYY-FM, Shimabukuro said that that video, which now has 9 million hits, changed his life.

Last year, Shimabukuro released “Peace, Love, Ukulele,” which debuted on Billboard’s World Charts at number one. He now tours throughout the United States, frequently selling out concert halls.

Despite the success, Shimabukuro remains humble and admittedly “awestruck” by how his love of the ukulele has propelled him to such great heights. For that, he gives full credit to the instrument he plays with a passion.

“If everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place,” Shimabukuro says.

His success has sparked a rise in popularity of the ukulele. Ed Fiscella, Mainstage Center for the Arts' Producing Artistic Director and ukulele enthusiast, is thrilled about that.

“I shop in a local music store, where the owner told me that he used to sell two or three ukuleles per year. Now, with Jake’s popularity, ukulele sales account for 30 percent of his business,” said Fiscella.

“It’s rare that someone comes along and completely redefines an instrument. Jake’s done that. When I saw that he was touring in North Jersey and then heading to Virginia, I thought that I had to try to book him here so South Jersey and Philadelphia area audiences wouldn’t miss out,” said Fiscella.

“We’re just ecstatic that the stars aligned and we’re able to present Jake in concert,” Fiscella added. “Our mission includes using the performing arts as a catalyst for individual expression and growth while enriching the quality of life for the community. Jake Shimabukuro thoroughly ties in with that mission.”

"An Evening with Jake Shimabukuro" takes place Sunday, April 15, 7:30 p.m., in the newly renovated Dennis Flyer Theatre, Lincoln Hall, Camden County College. Visit mainstage.org or call 856-227-3091 to purchase tickets, which range from $29 to $35.

Stacy Napolitano is Mainstage Center for the Arts' public relations professional. This article appears unedited (aside from minor formatting and style changes) as submitted by Mainstage. 

Ed Fiscella March 24, 2012 at 02:54 AM
I saw Jake in Illinois four months ago, and I still can’t stop thinking about it. He’s so dynamic, and between songs shares stories that will make everyone laugh. From the super young to the very old, no one can be immune from the infectious charm of Jake. When I saw him, he took time to sign autographs (and even ukuleles for those that brought them!) and pose for photos with everyone, and shined that Aloha smile after the show. I’m glad that Ed and Mainstage are able to bring him in for the New Jersey/Philadelphia audience. (taken from a comment by coolkayaker1 on the Mainstage website)

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