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Ukulele Reports
Updates from ukulele classes around the world.

Sokcho, South Korea
Eugene, Oregon, U. S. A.
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Bathurst, Australia

Sokcho, South Korea

Ukuleles Gaining Momentum in Sokcho, South Korea
By Felipe Sequeira

With its scenic mountains and beaches, Sokcho – situated on the eastern coast of South Korea – is a popular destination for Koreans year-round. Not exactly the place where one would expect to find a ukulele program. While Korean music has a rich history and Koreans take their music seriously - many young children are schooled in classic Korean music as well as in “Western” music styles - the ukulele has been, for the most part, treated as a novelty item than a serious instrument for music instruction.

In Sokcho, however, things changed about five years ago when I introduced the ukulele to a small group of preschoolers. Since then, the program has blossomed and now involves elementary students from ages 8 to 14.

The Program

Felipe Sequeira has started a successful ukulele program in Sokcho, Korea.

The ukulele program in Sokcho has been growing for five years. In May 2004, I imported a class set of ukuleles, with the help of my school, and began teaching 6 and 7-year old preschool students how to play. Being an English teacher, I taught the children how to play songs such as “I Am A Pizza”, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, and various Christmas songs for their year-end performance.

In 2005 I learned that a company called Micomedia (otherwise known as Bambell Music) was also working on teaching ukulele to preschool-aged students in Seoul. They, too, had just started and were trying to promote the ukulele throughout South Korea. I began going to Seoul almost every month to help them with seminars that they were offering to preschool teachers. The hope of the company was – and is – to introduce the ukulele to as many teachers as possible so that they might start programs in their schools and give the instrument more exposure.

As well as going back and forth to help with activities in Seoul, I continued to teach at a preschool in Sokcho. Only in its second year, the ukulele program was already garnering interest among the parents. The year finished with another successful Christmas concert.

The current program began in March 2006. After the warm response at the preschool, I decided to try teaching the ukulele as an extra-curricular activity at Gyodong Elementary School, one of the local schools in Sokcho. Being that many of the students from the first two years at the preschool had gone on to study at this school, I felt that it would be a shame for them to have learned only a little bit and then give it up. I was very surprised when 35 students signed up to take the class! With the help of my wife Geum Lim Kim, I began what is now the Gyodong Elementary Ukulele Program. Through the connection with Bambell Music, all of the students purchased their own instruments and began classes twice a week.

Sequeira leads his students in performance.

Our first concert was held at Expo Park in downtown Sokcho in August of 2006. My mother Charlene Sequeira was on hand to help out with the concert and it went very successfully. Along with many Korean children’s songs we performed various favorites such as “Minuet and Variation” (Mozart), “Never on a Sunday”, “Tico Tico”, and “Aloha Oe”.

The first year ended with a Christmas concert for the parents as well as a concert in front of the school’s students.

The beginning of the 2007 school year brought an influx of new students, bringing the group to 45 students split into beginner and intermediate groups. While the beginner group followed in the steps of the previous years’ students, the intermediate group started performing more difficult pieces and a few soloists emerged. It also marked the beginning of bass and cajon (box drum) classes for the intermediate group.

The summer of 2007 marked the first trip for the students to the 2nd annual Bambell Ukulele Festival in Seoul. The students impressed all the participants and guests and made a name for themselves in South Korea. 2007 ended with a concert and participation in a school festival.

The 2008 school year began with 50 students and promised to be successful yet again. With a trip to Seoul in the summer for the 3rd Annual Bambell Festival and some more rising stars, the group was able to show off their new skills. In December, the group had their 3rd annual year-end concert with student soloists and small groups. With many of the original group graduating from elementary school, 2009 will likely see the creation of a new, city-wide ukulele group.

Sokcho elementary school students performing Tico Tico for their Christmas concert. Most are Grade 5 students; half have been playing for 2 years, and half for 1 year.

Click here to see many more video clips of our students' performances.

Goals

Our primary goal is to offer children the opportunity to learn an instrument that they can play and take with them anywhere easily as long as they live. We’d also like to grow the program to a point where we can attract some of the “big names” in the ukulele world to South Korea to really show how the ukulele can be played.



Felipe Sequeira, who holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Victoria, B.C., Canada, is no stranger to the ukulele. An accomplished trombonist, Felipe was inspired to pursue ukulele at a young age by the work of Canadian educator J. Chalmers Doane. Felipe was schooled in the Doane Ukulele Method by his father, Vince Sequeira, who currently teaches music in the Campbell River school district on Vancouver Island, B.C., and directs the Pacifica Ukes ensemble.

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Eugene, Oregon, U. S. A.
By Brook Adams
The Ukulaneys

Here's the lowdown on Ukulaneys:

We started back in 2003 or 2004. My friend Debbie Diedrich and I found a lot of parents interested in ukulele lessons for their kids. Some of these parents ended up being uke enthusiasts themselves. We used to meet at St. Mary's Epicopal and then later moved to a city facility. Our youngest guy, (Phil) is 12 and our oldest gal (Lucy) is 90. Our mailing list is up to around 200 and an average meeting is usually around 30+ folks. Our last meeting after the Christmas break was pretty big.

Our biggest accomplishment is the Uketoberfest and work is already started on the next one. We have contributed to a 'Ukes for Kids' program here in town put on by the other ukulele club Mele Ohana which does all Hawaiian music.

Having learned a lot from our first, we are working on a second volume of our club songbook.

Link: Ukulaneys homepage

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Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
By Jamyang Lodto

A group that has been meeting in a living room for the past ten months has burst its seams and become the Victoria Ukulele Circle! It meets every other Wednesday evening from 6:30 to 9:30 in the Viewfield Room of the Esquimalt Recreation Centre. For new members the song book is $5.00 otherwise the drop in fee is $2.00 to cover room rental. All are welcome.

Contact (250) 370-2594 Beginning April 2 and running to May 21 are public ukulele Classes at the Monterey Centre in Oak Bay. Level I is held 1:15 to 2:15 and Leve II 2:30 to 3:30. Starting in September there will be a Level III class and evenutally an ongoing workshop. Cost is $40.00 for members and $48.00 for non-members. Contact the centre at (250) 595-7946

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Bathurst, Australia
By Fiona Green

We've just started up a Uke Orchestra in Bathurst, Australia. We are at a University in a small city West of Sydney in the cool climate Wine district of New South Wales (that's our state). We are thinking of having our first concert in a few weeks at the Education Department's Christmas Party.

We have general staff, PhD students, lecturers and people from the Academic Office involved...

We've all been getting some favourites from the web - mainly easy ones because we have a few starters to music in our midst. My favourite so far is Big Rock Candy Mountain but for simple minor-ish fun I'm enjoying What shall we do with a Drunken sailor?. All very simple stuff so far, but an excellent break from the marking and deptartment goings-on. We have general staff, PhD students, lecturers and people from the Academic Office involved, so it's lovely to gather and strum our lunchtime away each Tuesday. Many thanks to Peter Wilson who gathered us, leads us and shows great patience.

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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