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From The Ukulele Yes! Vault
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This detailed article about starting an adult ukulele group offers many valuable suggestions and ideas. Reprinted from Ukulele Yes! Vol. 2, No. 1. (1977).

How to Start an Adult Ukulele Class
by Judge R. E. (Bud) Kimball

Ukulele Yes! Vol. 2, No. 1. (1977). p. 9

The first thing you must do in order to start a ukulele class is to be totally prepared to teach the class. The first requirement there for the potential instructor, is to buy a ukulele. The ukulele which is purchased ought to be of a good quality and one which, in relation to pitch, produces a reasonably accurate sound. Having acquired the ukulele you must then learn to play it and understand it. The ukulele ought not to inhibit the instructor in any way and one must be totally aggressive toward the instrument when demonstrating it to others. When the instrument is learned to the point where you are competent to teach it you must then begin to talk about it and about the potential for music education and entertainment which the instrument itself possesses. Incidentally, you will quickly discover that the ukulele is an instrument to become quite enthusiastic over. No where else in the musical world is there an instrument so readily adaptable to large number of people and no where else does an instrument exist which is so quickly learned, at least initially, and from which so much benefit and pleasure can immediately be gained. Therefore, when I suggest that you must talk about the instrument it is not an idle remark. The instrument is one which may be quickly learned by many people and one which will bring considerable enjoyment into their lives. Further to that and depending on the instructor the ukulele will bring a degree of understanding of music generally and music theory in particular. When you talk of the ukulele and of the potential which it has for every individual who comes in contact with it, you are in reality creating a body of interest and enthusiasm beneficial to your forthcoming adult ukulele class.

No where else does an instrument exist which is so quickly learned, at least initially, and from which so much benefit and pleasure can immediately be gained.

Interest and enthusiasm are essential to the commencement of any adult ukulele programme. In addition to the interest and enthusiasm which you will create by your own example you must do other things to prepare the area in which you are located for the instruction which is to take place. You must make as much use of the media in the area as is possible. You must talk it up on local radio shows and put articles and notices in the local press concerning the ukulele and the potential that it has for adults in their leisure time. You can also create interest and enthusiasm through the records which are now available of the Halifax School ukulele group and of course through any workshops which may be held in your area. You should see to it that complimentary copies of the records are provided to your local radio station or stations.

Where a Recreation Commission exists or, as in Nova Scotia, a Provincial Government Department of Recreation, the enthusiasm and co-operation of these Departments can be used to advantage. In Nova Scotia the Provincial Department of Recreation has wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorsed the adult ukulele programme and made the resources and talents of the Department available to the organizers of the ukulele programme and to the instructors involved in it. In other provinces I am sure that similar co-operation can be obtained from the provincial governments of municipal governments as the case may be. It is most important to establish interest and enthusiasm in your area and this can be done through the resources of all levels of government and through your own individual initiative.

At the time of registration a volunteer should be delegated for the collection of the registration fees and for issuing receipts for the monies received as well as seeing to it that all monies are properly deposited thereafter. It is important that the instructor does not get involved in this aspect of the ukulele programme. It is not professional that he should be concerned with the payment of monies and/or the accounting of those monies. This is not to say that he should not have a responsible attitude toward the financial aspect of the programme but it must be secondary; it is the instructors function to teach the ukulele and not to be overly responsible for finances. Next in importance is to have a supply of ukuleles on hand for the adults to purchase. This can be done usually by inquiring of the wholesalers themselves or making arrangements through a local retail musical outlet. It is of considerable importance to obtain ukuleles as near to wholesale prices as possible. This will create an incentive and give the adults who enroll in the programme an advantage by acquiring the instrument at a price less than that which they would have to pay if they bought it under other circumstances. The price not withstanding, it is equally important to have a supply of ukuleles on hand so that they can be purchased on registration night. Prior to registration the ukuleles should have been previously tuned by the instructor so that they are ready for playing when the students receive them. You will find that the ukuleles will require several tunings before the retain their pitch for any considerable length of time. However, if they are previously tuned they should be reasonably accurate when the students get them.

Prior to registration the ukuleles should have been previously tuned by the instructor so that they are ready for playing when the students receive them.

The volunteer who is looking after receipts also should look after the sale of the ukuleles to the students. In addition on registration night instruction books should be on hand for the students to purchase and as before the volunteer should look after the sale of the books. It is important, but not absolutely essential, that a registration form be made available for the student to fill out when he registers. The registration form provides you with an accurate record of all students as well as a record of their address, phone numbers and any musical background that they might have. As far as registration night is concerned the foregoing covers all necessary aspects except for the very important announcement advising when classes will officially begin. It is important to advise the students on registration night of the place where and the time when classes will begin asking them to make particular note of same. If possible registration should take place in or near the room where the ukulele class will be given so that the students will be classroom oriented at least to some extent on registration night.

Ukulele classes should be held if at all possible in a classroom setting. The classroom should be brightly lit and should contain a blackboard and piano. The blackboard is essential for diagramming chords and for explaining any of the musical theory that you will be called upon to explain of that you will be teaching. The piano, while not totally necessary for the ukulele class, is of great assistance in teaching the ukulele since it enhances and compliments it. When the classes begin the classroom should be set up with the appropriate chairs and music stands. The chairs should be set up in pairs so that each two persons who are playing the ukulele will share one music stand. The chards should be set up in rows so as to create aisles between them. When all of these prerequisites have been completed then you are ready to teach.

Remember... you are dealing with adults who work hard all day and who want to relax at night. They also want to learn to play the ukulele.

There is one other aspect that is important to remember and that is that you are dealing with adults who work hard all day and who want to relax at night. They also want to learn to play the ukulele. Time after time you will hear them say, “I have always wanted to play a musical instrument”, so even though they are relaxing and even though they are entitled to relax, none-the-less they want to learn something about music and to play the ukulele. in other words, while as adults they wish to relax at the same time they are willing to learn and therefore as instructors you must remember that if you are not too serious with them they will respond enthusiastically to your efforts.

Once you are satisfied that the particular area is ready for an adult ukulele class then there are certain important steps you should take in preparing for registration night. Notice of the adult ukulele programme and of registration is brought to the attention of the public in your area by advertising in the local newspaper and by posters located in strategic places in your locality where adults will see them. This is usually in schools, shopping malls, church halls and other similar places. In addition you must again make full use of the radio and local television station if one is available to you. Generally the media will provide free public service bulletins for programmes such as this and thereby help keep expenses at a minimum. I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of using the radio, the press and television in getting the initial notice of the ukulele class to the public. The media wants to be involved in this type of activity and it is up to yourself to take full advantage of that assistance.

I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of using the radio, the press and television in getting the initial notice of the ukulele class to the public.

The notice placed before the public ought to advise the public that registration for the adult ukulele programme will take place at a certain location at a given time and date. It must advise as well what the registration fee for the said programme will be. It is important to set a registration fee which is realistic. The fee ought not to be so low that it has no significance to the person involved and at the same time it ought not to be so high that it is prohibitive. As much as is possible the registration fee paid by the adults should cover the total cost of the operation of the adult ukulele programme. The registration fee should provide the remuneration which will be paid to the instructor for teaching each week and should provide for the cost of materials which will be necessary in conducting the class. This would be the cost of duplicating paper and cost of stencils used when writing out songs for distribution to the class.

In the early days of the Halifax ukulele program, Bud Kimball, now a retired judge, worked alongside Chalmers Doane and taught an adult ukulele group in Windsor, Nova Scotia.

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