For years, Steve Mounce, a counselor at Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility, has led a ukulele group to teach incarcerated youth about the joy of music.
When he heard about a Eugene high school doing a fundraiser where they made their own album and sold it to raise money for their music program, he knew that he wanted to try the same idea with the uke players in Grants Pass.
Over the past year, Mounce and six youth worked together to record an album with ukulele versions of Christmas songs. They chose classics that were in the public domain, such as “Joy to the World,” “Away in a Manger,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Silent Night.”
They are selling CDs for $5 each to raise money to buy any youth who plays with the group for a year his own ukulele when he’s released from the facility. For every 30 CDs they sell, they can buy one ukulele.
“The belief is that if you play the ukulele for one year, you’re going to play for life,” Mounce says. “They’re easy, they’re portable, and they draw crowds.”
“A lot of times people want to do something to help our youth, but they don’t know what,” he says. “Here’s something easy: you can purchase a CD for five bucks, and help our youth get an instrument they can play for life.”
So far, the response to their fundraiser has been tremendous. Their goal was to sell 500 CDs, and they are currently on track to pass that mark.
As a result, when one youth who participated in the recording paroles out of the facility in mid-December, he’ll be taking a new ukulele with him.
The youth who performed for the Christmas CD, left to right: Morgen, Joshua, Branden, Ethan, and Ezekiel. Not pictured: youth D.W. and group leader Steve Mounce.