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Ukulele Reports
Updates from ukulele classes around the world.

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Langley, British Columbia, Canada
Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Carolee Nishi's Hula Hui O Kapunahala
By Sam Au

Go to the Nu‘uanu YMCA in Honolulu, Hawaii any Saturday and you will find a swarm of keiki (children) from 3 years old to 19, dressed in varying brightly colored skirts with Hawaiian print. They are all part of Hula Hui O Kapunahala, a Hawaiian Studies Program, with an enrollment of 350+, headed by volunteer director Carolee Nishi. Besides learning the hula and Hawaiian language and songs, Carolee gets them proficient on the guitar, bass, and ‘ukulele as well.

From left: Byron Yasui, James Hill, Carolee Nishi, Benny Chong, Sam Au.

"Aunty Carolee," as she is affectionately referred to by almost everyone, has been continually refining her ‘ukulele teaching method for the last 40 years. Whether playing Hawaiian songs using I and V7 chords with the young keiki or assisting at the University of Hawai‘i with native Hawaiian songs for early education majors, Carolee's enthusiasm, patience, and knowledge shine through.

In her “standing room only” Thursday night adult ‘ukulele class she pretends to teach Hawaiian songs but in actuality she sneaks in music theory! This class understands the circle of fifths and how to transpose, uses the complete fretboard and learns chord melodies in the Benny Chong tradition. The only problem with this class is they spend so much time laughing no one realizes how much they are learning. With Aunty Carolee, it doesn’t get any better. How can you beat being entertained while you learn? In a nutshell Carolee's program can be described as "Good Friends, Good Music, and Good Fun!"

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Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Langley "Senior B" Ukulele Ensemble
By Paul Luongo

It's busy times ahead as the Langley Sr. B ukulele ensemble prepares for one of its most hectic months of the year!  Within the past month the students have been pushed to learn an entire program of Christmas repertoire in preparation for seven concerts in the month of December! The students will also have the privilege of performing with the world-renowned Langley Ukulele Ensemble in each of their four major Christmas productions! 

The Langley "Senior B" Ukulele Ensemble (Directors: Paul Luongo and Katie Miller).

Aside from learning the words and notes, Katie and myself have worked hard to develop our students' ability to create three or four part harmony.  The knowledge each student has obtained revolves around the theoretical structure of all types of chords.  Instrumentally, the students are constantly being challenged to make the music sound like music, not just like "a bunch of notes."  Stylistic techniques such as precisely flat-picking through direction-efficient patterns and dampening notes are two of many musical approaches we have taken with the students' ukulele playing. 

After December the students will continue to have concerts within the lower mainland of British Columbia and by May will have performed in public at least fifteen times!  For a reward and great opportunity we are hoping to do a Vancouver Island tour as a way of capping off the year with a memorable experience. 

Link: Langley "Senior B" Ukulele Ensemble

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Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada

Bring a Friend!
By Angela Dwyer-James

Wondering how to increase interest in your ukulele group? Try having a “bring a friend” session. It’s a simple concept but used effectively it can work.

I conduct a small group of 8-to-12-year-old children. Our group totals just 10 players. We call ourselves “Friday Night Ukes” because, you guessed it, we meet on Friday nights! In June I organized a “bring a friend night” as our final session of the year. Each player brought a friend to encourage them to try to uke and to show their friend what they themselves could do on the uke.

In order to organize this event you ideally need enough ukes for all the new people. If you have some on hand this is great, if not you can borrow some. If you don’t find enough ukes you can have some percussion instruments on hand and have the player switch around throughout the session. I used both because with this age group percussion instruments are a big hit!

I also used PowerPoint to put music on a screen instead of handing out paper music. This worked very well because it was different for my own players and they were intrigued as well.

The program was short and high energy starting with a vocal exercise on “Skip to my Lou”. I played chords and continued up the fretboard in semitones. We then moved into a game on the open strings. After this we embarked on a “3 Songs in 30 Minutes” challenge. I used Ukulele in the Classroom Book 1 by James Hill and Chalmers Doane. The first song was Frere Jacques; the second song was Rocky Mountain. For the third song we learned New York Strum, a Chalmers Doane original with lyrics by Lorna MacPhee. For this I was able to explain how the uke is also a percussion instrument; great for beginners! I provided solo breaks for my experienced players and I also played the bass along with the group to round things out.

We finished the session with our regular group playing some numbers for their friends. They really enjoyed being able to show what they could do.
All the visiting children were energized and most inquired about when they could join. I am going to have a similar session to kick off next year and with this I am hoping my group will grow to 15-20 players. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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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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