The halls of Two Harbors High School are typically pretty quiet at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday, but this week, there is a strangely familiar sound floating through the corridors.
"Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream," a group of voices sing.
In the choir room, Two Harbors resident Alan Anderson is teaching a beginners' ukulele class with 20-25 students of kids and adults alike. Anderson is leading the group of about 20 people as they learn the basic chords and strumming techniques.
While his students struggle to get the chords fingered correctly, Anderson patiently gives them strategies to make it a little easier to get the chords and rhythm of strumming right. While the group was practicing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," Anderson breaks the class into thirds, with each group playing just one of the three chords in the song.
Anderson, also a member of the Two Harbors Ukulele Group (THUG), also told the group if they are really having trouble with a chord to just do what he does when he's not confident: "air strum." Anderson tells the class just to try to finger the chord, but if they're afraid it might not be right, just smile and just miss the strings with your hands because appearances are important to THUG, too.
"We want to look good doing it," he said.
The class is an "AGE to Age" intergenerational community education class through Lake Superior School District. The hope is to generate some newer and younger members of THUG. Anderson even brought some of his friends from the group as ringers and to help on a more individual basis. Sisters Margaret Glass and Vicky Sanders sat in the class like other students, but tried to help out with chords. Glass said she didn't mind taking the class again.
"I learn something new every time," she said.
Anderson isn't lobbying too hard for THUG during the class, but his contagious enthusiasm and easy style might just do the job for him, and that's OK.
"All we can do is introduce them to the instrument and show them how much fun we have," he said.
Three of the students in the class arrived early to participate in another community education class to build their own ukulele in the Two Harbors wood shop.
Caleb Cox and Elizabeth Radke, both sixth-graders at Two Harbors, worked with a parent to assemble their instruments and then made their way to the choir room.
Caleb, a big Johnny Cash fan, decided to make his ukulele instead of buying one to practice with at home, and because "it's something to do."
Elizabeth thought it would be more fun to build her own instrument rather than just buying one and believes playing ukulele will add to her family's musical tradition.
"We're always playing music in my family," she said. "But no one plays the ukulele, so I thought it would be fun to learn."
Ally Leith, a junior at Two Harbors, is learning the ukulele with her mom, too, but her reason for building her own was a little more practical and, she hopes, maybe some practice for her future career.
"My ukulele broke and I need a new one," Leith said. "Plus, I can put whatever I want on it. I want to be a tattoo artist and I want to put some lit designs on mine."