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In this 1979 article, Bonnie Smith (founder of the Victoria, BC ukulele program) reports on classroom teachers in Saanich, BC, Canada who took the "bull by the horns" and became their own music specialists. These days, as the number of music specialists dwindles due to funding cuts, it's worth remembering that personal commitment to music by "non-specialists" is critical in the fight to keep music in our schools.

The Classroom Teacher Becomes a Music Specialist (Abridged)
By Bonnie Smith

Ukulele Yes! Vol. 4, No. 1 (1979). pp. 16-17

Have you thought about coming out of the shower? You – who have great fun in your watery echo chamber, but dread the idea of teaching a music class? Several classroom teachers in Saanich have taken their shower voices into an adult ukulele class, initially just for fun, and ended up as ukulele specialists – teaching ukulele in their schools and training children to read music, to play by ear, and to sing in two and three parts.

The Saanich adult ukulele program started in February, 1975, with a 10 week adult workshop and has progressed to the point where during the 1978-79 school year the Saanich continuing education department will offer Ukulele 1, Ukulele 2, and an Adult Ukulele Ensemble as part of its night school program.

Teachers who care can truly become specialists in an area where one has a particular interest.

Dedicated classroom/ukulele teachers are responsible for the continuing growth of the Saanich program. These teachers have continued taking ukulele classes or attending ukulele workshops to improve personal playing skills, have interested their friends in learning to play, and encouraged the District to hire a ukulele consultant for the 1977-78, and 1978-79 school years so that help with pedagogy and administration is available for the ukulele program.

Who are these new music specialists in Saanich? Why did they care to get involved and what keeps them going? In this age of specialist instruction even in the elementary school it would be easy to understand if a teacher became intimidated about teaching music, but these Saanich teachers have shown that teachers who care can truly become specialists in an area where one has a particular interest.

Primarily these new ukulele specialists are classroom teachers with a love of music who took ukulele just for fun – and couldn’t stop. They continue to improve their own skills and are diligent in protecting the quality of the ukulele classes which they teach, and the children in School District 63 (Saanich) benefit greatly from their commitment.

A veteran ukulele teacher and the founder of the Island Ukuleles ensemble (Victoria, BC), Bonnie holds a Master's Degree in Education from the University of Victoria. She currently specializes in curriculum development and design as well as web design and distributed learning. www.bonitasweb.com.

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