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In case you thought that using ukuleles in school classrooms was a new idea, this 1977 article from The Montreal Star will set you straight!

The Ukulele Ideal to Teach Music
By Ken Whittingham

Ukulele Yes! Vol. 2, No. 2 (1980). p. 12

From The Montreal Star, Saturday, October 29, 1977. Pg. A-13

About 80 Montreal-area teachers and principals gathered at McGill University's education faculty recently to attend a ukulele workshop designed to show them how to teach music to their young students.

The three-day workshop was led by J. Chalmers Doane, superintendent of music at the Halifax School Board, and Canada's foremost proponent of the ukulele. He calls the four-stringed ukulele the most adaptable instrument the world to use for teaching.

Its relatively small size makes it ideal for young children to handle, and its cost – as little as $14 – can fit almost any budget.

On any given day, as many as 10, 000 Canadian schoolchildren are plucking away on the little instrument that was made famous by such entertainers as George Formby and Ukulele Ike.

A guitar, by contrast, is too big for most children to cope with until they reach the end of grade school, Mr. Doane says, "yet it's the years from Grades 2 to 6 that are the best suited to teaching youngsters the basics of music."

Although the ukulele is often considered more of a toy than a musical instrument, Mr. Doane says it is "a complete instrument that supplies harmony, rhythm and melody."

Other instruments like the banjo do the same thing, of course, but at a cost of almost $400, he says the banjo is hardly practical for average families with young children.

In the 11 years since Mr. Doane began teaching his ukulele courses, interest in their pedagogical benefits has spread to all 10 provinces.

Courses like that demonstrated at McGill are being taught in teaching schools as far afield as the University of British Columbia and Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. On any given day, Mr. Doane estimates, as many as 10, 000 Canadian schoolchildren are plucking away on the little instrument that was made famous by such entertainers as George Formby and Ukulele Ike.

A former band leader and a onetime regular on the CBC television show Singalong Jubilee, Mr. Doane says the ukulele appeals to children because "it's basically fun to play."

Its gentle sound also means youngsters can practise it anywhere without getting on the elder's nerves.

Mr. Doane himself often strums away on airplanes as he gets around the country. He says he's never got any complaints about disturbing his fellow passengers.

Unlike such instruments as the trombone, which Mr. Doane also plays, the ukulele allows children to sing along as they play. Singing, he says, is essential in training the musical ear. The combination of voice and music allows children to compare sounds, to see if they are staying on key.

No instrument can do so much for so many for so little money.

 

Lorraine Thibeault, chairman of McGill's music education department and another backer of the ukulele teaching concept, says individual teachers in the Montreal area have begun experimenting with the instrument, and efforts are being made to interest local school boards in the merits of ukulele programs.

At present, many teachers here and elsewhere offer the course as an extracurricular activity for students with musical interests, but Mr. Doane says that doesn't preclude the instrument's use in regular music classes throughout the school year.

The ukulele's range is limitless, he says, and young people can be taught to play everything from the classics to jazz and pop tunes.

"No instrument can do so much for so many for so little money," he says enthusiastically.

Although the cost of a specially designed instrument like the one Mr. Doane uses can be as much as $150, he says a school board, or parent, could buy a well-playing ukulele and all the instruction booklets needed for less than $20.

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