Seniors treated to ukulele’s charms

Emily Russell grew up in Hawaii, playing the ukulele just like everyone else.

When she moved to Lawrence in the 1960s, however, she didn’t give it up. And now, the 74-year-old woman uses her talent to entertain seniors in local nursing homes and to teach others about the instrument that had its origins in Hawaii in the late 19th century.

The mother of four children and six stepchildren has a musically inclined family. Whenever they get together, Russell said, they bring out the instruments and sing and play together.

“The ukulele is excellent for accompanying a singer. Something about making eye contact with the person who’s singing is special,” Russell said.

Among Russell’s favorite songs to play on her ukulele are gospel songs such as “Amazing Grace,” “You are My Sunshine” and various Hawaiian melodies.

Russell doesn’t reserve her music for just her family, though. She is an instructor at Americana Music Academy and she also helps to entertain residents and staff at Presbyterian Manor, Pioneer Ridge and Brandon Woods.

“What I do with the ukulele, I consider an outreach project for Americana,” said Russell, who also plays the mandolin and fiddle.