The moment Sherry McKinnon and Gayle Wells met they knew they would be friends—but they never imagined they would begin Hummin’ & Strummin’ Music Company together.
Gayle, in search of a new career, had just moved to Orillia with her family after 20 years in corporate sales. With a strong background in music she was looking for music lessons for her son and was immediately drawn to the Orillia Music Centre (OMC) where the slogan is, “We Make Learning Music Fun”.
It was there, in 2012, that she became instant friends with Sherry, the studio’s founder and lead teacher. Together they began to develop a common vision—to extend the mission of OMC into the community.
In May, 2015, the two women now known as the “Uke-a-Ladies,” incorporated the Hummin’ & Strummin’ Music Company. The primary goal of their program is to provide children with a musical experience that will spark in them the desire for learning more. Gayle and Sherry believe there is an instrument for every child and that the ukulele gets something in their hands, explaining “it’s trendy and affordable.”
Hummin’ & Strummin’ provides fun and engaging group music lessons to elementary students while they are at school. The company slogan is “We Bring Music to You”. Sponsorship is one of their favorite parts of the program. For every 8 children that sign up, Hummin’ & Strummin’ sponsors one child for free.
The program has been a great success. In their first year alone, they worked with close to 800 children throughout Simcoe County’s Catholic and Public school boards. “The principals, teachers, secretaries and librarians have been incredibly supportive. They see the merit for the kids, are very welcoming, and really appreciate us being part of their school,” shares Gayle.
One of the biggest selling features of the ukulele is the wide array of colors available for the students to choose from. However, in order to purchase a variety of colours, they needed to place a minimum order of 1000 ukuleles.
“The personality and contacts of Hummin’ & Strummin’ were already established, but we needed the capital and know-how of the system. That’s when we were referred to the Community Development Corporation (CDC) for help,” said Sherry.
“Wendy and Susan were very welcoming. They truly listened and genuinely wanted to see us succeed,” recalls Sherry. The Hummin’ n’ Strummin’ Music Company received a loan from the CDC and were able to purchase their ukuleles. With the loan, the ladies were also able to partly fund their new online registration system.
“Accessing the CDC was time well spent. The staff are more than happy to direct you in the right areas, provide resources, and they deal locally. The CDC loan allowed us to grow, and we couldn’t have done it without their help,” boasts Sherry.
On Saturday, December 17, Hummin’ n’ Strummin’ will be a guest at Thor Motor’s annual fundraising event to raise food and money for The Sharing Place Food Bank. This will be their third year participating. Ukulele clubs from ten area schools will collectively perform a song with their ukuleles in the Thor Motors Orillia showroom.
“Last year close to 80 students showed up, and we expect an even bigger turnout this year,” exclaims Sherry. The event runs from 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm with the Orillia Vocal Ensemble performing various sets throughout the afternoon as well.
For more information on the Hummin’ & Strummin’ Music Company and the Orillia Music Centre, including their Heritage Music Fun Day program on January 29, part of the City of Orillia’s 150th birthday celebrations, call 705-309-4073, visit www.orilliamusiccentre.com and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.