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A Student and Her Ukulele Win Thousands of Fans

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tally Deushane, an Agnes Scott College junior, posted her first video of herself playing the ukulele to YouTube in October 2009 as a way to channel some of her silly energy.
Tally with a ukulele
“I decided to buy one on a whim and I got addicted to writing ukulele songs,” Deushane said. “I think it’s an excuse for me to be able to sit and write things.”

But over the past year, Deushane’s ukulele hobby has generated not only cute songs about everything from Harry Potter to awkward pauses, but also hundreds of thousands of YouTube hits and a spot on a television show boxset.

Deushane, an English and creative writing major, films the songs in her residence hall room with a small camera and posts the videos directly to YouTube with minimal editing. Songs touch on many subjects, but frequently are odes to her favorite television shows.

Deushane’s love of television runs deeply—she aspires to write for television someday. But if a career as a television writer isn’t in the cards, she plans to become an intellectual property attorney, she said.

While she didn’t have much formal musical instrument training, aside from dabbling in guitar and piano, Deushane started teaching herself to play ukulele in 2009. Her ukulele passion blossomed and she bought a couple more ukuleles, which periodically appear in her videos.

After several months of posting her songs on YouTube, Deushane and her ukulele caught the eye of YouTube staffers. “Four Chords,” a video she’d made about YouTube’s fifth anniversary and her own experiences as a YouTube poster, was selected to be featured on the YouTube home page.

The video’s views skyrocketed and quickly climbed to more than 100,000.

“That was a crazy day,” Deushane said. “I came home to more than 700 e-mails.”

The posting eventually attracted about 230,000 views in its first month. Typical to most widely watched videos, viewer comments ranged from enthusiastic encouragement to random insults, Deushane said.

“You get a lot of nice comments and you get a lot of not so nice ones,” she said.

In the interest of protecting her grandmother from reading some pretty vulgar comments, Deushane said she decided to delete some of the more off-color comments.

With thousands of new fans, Deushane is now a YouTube partner, which means she now gets a small portion of the ad revenue her videos generate, she said.

Becoming a higher-profile contributor to YouTube brings more pressure to improve the quality of the videos you post, Deushane said, but she doesn’t plan to change her process.

“I don’t have two hours a days to make videos. I don’t have time to sit and edit and do all this crazy stuff,” Deushane said. “It’s going to stay me and my ukulele for now.”

In addition to drawing thousands of YouTube viewers, Deushane has also attracted the attention of staff from the television show “How I Met Your Mother.” Staff from the show approached her about using a song she’d written about the show on the Season 5 boxset, she said. They’re planning to re-record the song and include it as part of an outtakes featurette on the set, Deushane said.

She was paid a modest licensing fee for the song but was very pleased just to have the song affiliated with the show in some way.

“I would have given it to them for free. I love that show,” Deushane said.

While Deushane said her ukulele songs help focus her silliness productively so she can focus on serious writing for her college coursework, she has a few other outlets for her creative energy. A fan of creativity under pressure, Deushane has participated in both National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and February Album Writing Month, which encourage artists to create a novel or 14-song album in a month.

Deushane admitted that friends generally think it’s pretty strange to write an entire novel or churn out an album of songs in one month but relax a little when she explains that it’s part of a nation-wide challenge.

“They still think you’re insane but at least you’re not the only one doing it,” Deushane said.

Tally Deushane's YouTube videos

Agnes Scott College educates women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times. Students are drawn to Agnes Scott by its excellent academic reputation, exceptional faculty, and metropolitan Atlanta location – offering myriad cultural and experiential learning opportunities. A diverse and growing residential community of scholars, this highly selective liberal arts and sciences college is known for its dynamic and challenging intellectual community. Encouraging students to engage the wider world through study abroad and presenting its curriculum with international context, Agnes Scott College delivers on its promise: The World for Women.
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