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Ukulele Reports
Updates from ukulele classes around the world.

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Auckland, New Zealand
Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
By Eric C. Kurtz

In a Montessori classroom, students are free to work on their choice of activity after lessons. The student should demonstrate engagement in the work and they may also choose who they collaborate with. The ukulele has a wonderful soft tone that lends itself to playing all throughout the day. Not disturbing, but rather enhancing the reading, math, or writing work that is going on around them. It’s pretty cool to be giving lessons and hearing soft music in the background.

Since December, Michael Munnik has been our class music teacher. Being a full-time music producer for the CBC, professional musician, and a father, he manages to squeeze us in for 2 hours of instruction each week. The music he presents gets photocopied and laminated for the students to take when they play. Each student receives inspiring lessons every week in small groups for 20 minutes. Small groups range from 5 to11 students. He works with 2 classes, of almost 30 each, mixed ages 9 to 12 year olds. Some of the favourite tunes include Edelweiss, El Condor Pasa, I Can See Clearly, 15 Animals, La Cucaracha, Harvest Moon, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard, and Bedouin Soundclash’s When the Night Feels My Song.

Some students are inspired to hear uke musicians in the city’s concert and music workshop. Our class was lucky enough last year to be at Eric Friesen’s Studio Sparks live audience. James Hill and Anne Davison were his guests. Two weeks later, the class was huddled around the radio listening again to the broadcast of the show. Great, because they got to hear James and Anne again. But also, they were thrilled to hear themselves in the live audience.

We have the ukes neatly set out on a shelf every day. Displaying them, keeping them in good repair and tuned, invites the students to pick them up. We limit the number of ukes in the classroom to 8. This controls the number of students who play at one time and entails planning and sharing on their parts. We practice during the entire day, and it’s chosen as any other piece of work. Some choose it every day. We play in the halls, classroom, and perform for other classes. We regularly perform for the Head Director and the office staff.

January until June are the two terms set for music. Although this builds in a break in practice, it does serve to build anticipation and refreshment of the instrument. It allows for new habits to be formed. Many of the students have ordered their own ukes through the school and they do play at home in the off-term.

Ukulele is often selected by the student, as a piece of work, to be presented during conferences with parents and teacher. During the 1/2 hour conference, the student will pick up their uke, their favourite music that they’ve been rehearsing, and bring some beautiful music to the conference atmosphere.

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Auckland, New Zealand
by Kevin Fogarty

Students perform at the 2007 NZ Uke Fest.

New Zealand's "Ukulele in Schools" program was started in 2002 by Kevin Fogarty, Mike Chunn, and Bill Sevesi. Highlights include:

  • Kevin flew to Wellington and ran an ukulele workshop with the members of Parliament.
  • School uke group the "Kiwileles" appeared on TV programs Tangata Pasifika, and What Now and performed the New Zealand National Anthem for nationwide television.
  • Kiwileles perform for the opening of the Telstra Manukau Stadium.
  • Kiwileles traveled to the Hawaiian Uke Festival twice and played onstage with Jack Johnson in 2007.
  • Kevin organized and chaired the first New Zealand Uke Festival committee. He also wrote and recorded Kiwi Ukulele, the festival theme song.
  • Two massed ukulele practises for 800 pupils playing at the festival.
  • Kevin has given many local ukulele workshops including sessions for Auckland CEOs, workshops at the Waiheke Island market, a workshop for A.P.R.A. staff, three teacher workshops for the 40 teachers involved in the NZ Uke Fest, and eight teacher workshops in Auckland.
  • Kevin co-hosted, stage managed and performed at the inaugural NZ Ukulele Festival. He is also the co-ordinator of the 2008 NZ Ukulele Festival, to be held at Mt. Smart Stadium in Auckland on November 22, 2008.

For more information please email kevin.fogarty(at)gmail(dot)com or visit www.kiwiukulele.com.

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Langley, British Columbia, Canada
by Jamie Thomas

Langley, BC has five District Ukulele Ensembles made up of students from many different schools. All of these groups offer members an opportunity to improve their individual reading, playing and singing skills while being a part of a good performing ensemble.  The groups rehearse for 90 minutes once a week through the school year and have numerous performance opportunities locally.

The best known of these groups is The Langley Ukulele Ensemble under the direction of Mr. Peter Luongo. They have received international recognition as one of the world's finest ukulele ensembles. Recent travels have included Hawaii, Halifax, Liverpool, Stratford, California, Texas and Japan. (See our interview with Peter Luongo in this issue. -- Ed.)

This year Langley has also commenced our Novice Ukulele Program. It begins with a one week summer camp and then one after-school class every week. The program serves two purposes. Firstly, the program is aimed at students who do not have a ukulele program offered at their school. Secondly, as part of the program students from the Langley Ukulele Ensemble are trained to teach the ukulele and to assist with instruction. As we introduce new students to the uke we are simultaneously training new ukulele teachers.

Things are "uking" along just fine in Langley, BC.

Do you teach a ukulele group? Are you a student in a ukulele class? If so, send us an update on your activities: what you've learned recently and what you're learning now. Make sure to include your name and location.

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In This Issue: PRELUDE IDEAS & LETTERS UKULELE REPORTS INTERVIEW FEATURE ARTICLEFREE ARRANGEMENT PEDAGOGY CORNER FROM THE VAULT