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Inwood Ukulele Performer Wows Straphangers En Route to Viral Video Stardom

By DNAinfo Staff on January 17, 2012 1:50pm

By Matt Draper


WASHINGTON HEIGHTS —  What's the best way to get to musical stardom? Apparently, the A train.

What started as an individual drum performance on an uptown A train turned into an impromptu jam session — and YouTube sensation — when a passenger captured Inwood resident Jessica Latshaw whipping out her ukulele and captivating onlookers with a blazing three-minute medley of folk and rap.

“I’m playing my music, and I noticed that people were listening and paying attention,” said Latshaw, 31, a dancer and singer-songwriter who often brings her ukulele on the train to pass time while commuting from her home Uptown.

“Usually everyone [riding the train] is as emotionally distant as possible. I thought it was cool. It was a special moment in New York City.”

The unplanned concert started when Latshaw was heading home from an afternoon of martial arts and yoga classes in Midtown on Jan. 3. The drummer, whom she said is named Quoom 1, approached her on the platform of 59th Street/Columbus Circle station after noticing her ukulele. He hopped on the train with her and set up his drums before a passenger asked if Latshaw could play.

“I haven’t been playing that long,” admitted Latshaw, who added that while she’s been singing and dancing for many years — she was once part of touring version of “A Chorus Line” — she only picked up the ukulele a year ago because of its portable size.

“I don’t consider myself good. I told them, ‘I can play a song.’”

When the train pulled into the 125th street station a few minutes later, the car was ringing with applause. Even after Quoom 1 left at the 125th street stop, Latshaw played another song upon requests from straphangers.

When she got off in Inwood, she called a friend to tell them about her musical journey. She said she didn’t think anything more of it, other than “maybe my parents in Pennsylvania would watch it.”

The video of the song — an original titled “Ain’t My Friend” — was immediately posted to YouTube and has been viewed more than 1 million times in just two weeks.

In the process, the clip has garnered more than 12,000 “likes,” while Latshaw has received hundreds of supportive emails from fans and dozens of inquiries from record labels and booking agents.

Last week, she even sang the tune live during a TV appearance on "Good Day New York."

“This has completely taken me by surprise,” Latshaw said. “People have been writing to me and saying how much it means to them. Now I’m talking to a label and meeting with a possible manager. Someone wrote me and is wanting me to play in England. I think it’s beautiful. It’s humbling.”

The performer said life has been a blur since the video went viral.

“It’s a full-time job just trying to respond to everybody,” she said. “It’s sort of overwhelming, in a good way. I want people to know that I am grateful.”

Latshaw has enlisted her brother to help filter emails and inquiries and, on the advice of a music industry agent, recorded “Ain’t My Friend” last weekend near her parents' home in Pennsylvania.

The song is now available for download on iTunes and other online music sites, and Latshaw said she’s also planning to record a full album in the near future.

“There are some things that are meant to be that are bigger than you,” she said. “And this is one of them."