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NORMAL — Jim Callahan and Tim Szerlong offer "ukulele fun jams" once a month at Fusion Brew in Normal.  

Anybody can come and play, even if they don't have a ukulele, said Szerlong, who has a collection of about 30 of the instruments and brings some along to share.

The event attracts people from 8 to 88 years old, said Callahan. Some travel from Wisconsin; others, Iowa.

"If you're playing the ukulele, there's no way you can be angry," he said. "It's easy to play and there's no pressure."

On June 21, the duo will take their fun jam to the street as they join more than 20 other performers taking part in the first Make Music Normal — a day of free music. Similar Make Music celebrations will take place that same day in about 800 cities around the globe. 

Callahan and Szerlong have signed up for 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the corner of Broadway and North Street. Callahan also will play Irish music on the ukulele from 11 a.m. to noon at the same location. 

"It's a great way to get people involved in music," Callahan said of event.

Mayor Chris Koos suggested the idea for Normal after hearing about it while attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors earlier this year. Representatives from Madison, Wis., talked about their Make Music day. 

"It just sounded like a great idea," Koos said. "I'd like to see this happen every year."

The town kick-started things by offering five performance venues: the Connie Link Amphitheatre; Gateway Plaza; Normal Public Library; Rosa Parks Commons; and the corner of Broadway and North Street. Musicians who have performed at other town events such as the farmers market and the Sounds of the Connie Link Amphitheatre were sent information to see if they were interested in participating.

When Scott Marsh, a member of the band Bone-afide, heard about it, he thought it would be a good opportunity for the band.

"I was excited," he said. "More cities around the nation should be doing this. There's a huge lack of arts festivals."

The eight-piece band that includes five trombones, a guitar, a bass and a drum signed up for a spot on the stage at the amphitheater from 12 to 1:30 p.m.  

"We're a unique group with a unique sound," he said. "It should be really fun."

Band members Tom Fatten, Harlan Geiser, Charlie Stokes, Ron Augspurger, Mark Victor, Larry Neihaus, Joe Bell, Bob McEntyre and Marsh perform a variety of music, including jazz, swing, standard and original music created by Marsh.

"We're looking forward to it," said Marsh. "After we play, I hope to bounce between venues and see other bands."

One of the performers he might see is 12-year-old Leah Marlene, who will be singing and playing the guitar from 2 to 2:45 p.m. at Gateway Plaza. She will be accompanied by her father, Derry Grehan, of the band Honeymoon Suite.

"I'm just the backup guy and do harmonies," said Grehan. "It's so much fun for me to do."

Leah Marlene has been performing in front of an audience since she was in a third-grade talent show.

"I was a really, really big country girl in third, fourth and fifth grades," she said. "I've expanded to anything I'm interested in; anything that's fun to sing."

A full list of venues and performers can be found on the town's website at


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