Top 10 Reasons for Starting an Ukulele Program
1. A growing trend in music education.
I’m not saying you have to do everything everyone else does. But I do think you should at least check out WHY it is a trend. Clearly it is working for many across the nation.
2. The ukulele is relatively inexpensive.
You can find a ukulele for as cheap as $30, and even upgrading to a nicer model will only run you $50-$75. I do know for some people and some families, this is a hardship, and I don’t pretend to expect everyone to afford that. Check out this post reviewing some affordable ukuleles.
I have my students order ukuleles like many programs have their kids order recorders. This process is outlined in the FREE Rainbow Ukulele Starter kit. I also included a copy of the letter I use to parents! About 75% of my kids order one. The rest use one of the school-owned ukuleles.
3. The ukulele is portable.
My apologies to the Tuba players out there, but I remember transporting instruments as a huge problem for my elementary students when we had band in the schools. We had several discussions with bus drivers about this :/ The ukulele can easily be taken on the bus and stored in the classroom as necessary. There are many storage options – see a few here!
4. It’s a solo AND ensemble instrument!
One of the traditional standards in music education is to get students performing alone and with others as both are important. Ukulele is amazing to play by yourself and is amazing to play with others. Many other instruments also fit this bill but the ukulele seems to have special powers in empowering the desire to perform both as a soloist sand in an ensemble. I love that students can make amazing music on their own at home. I also love that we can jam together as a class. Some instruments are more fun to play in a group, but I think the ukulele easily holds it own in both.
5. You can sing and play at the same time!
Being able to accompany yourself is a special joy in music as it makes kids feel like a rock star in their own bedroom. Something fun about providing your own accompaniment.
6. The ukulele is relatively easy to play.
I am not naive – I know for some students and teachers, it just won’t work out. But honestly almost everyone I have come across that really tried ukulele has some measure of success. Even if they only learned a few chords and strumming patterns, they are able to be a part of something amazing.
7. You only have to learn a little to play a lot.
If you can get your students to learn 3-4 chords there are so many songs you can play. The list becomes almost unlimited. Once they get going on these chords, it will naturally lead to adding more on. Check out this awesome medley by axis of awesome. They prove it!
(Note: the original is NOT clean and not suitable for young students. The second version is somewhat better but you should be aware there is still some inappropriate material (words and clothing).
8. Great way to teach a lot of musical concepts.
Ukulele units cover sooo many elements of music, Pitch? check. Rhythm? check. Harmony? check. Expression? check. The list goes on and on. My county had specific things we were scheduled to teach at specific times and yet ukulele seemed to meet requirements in almost every unit. It is such a versatile instrument! Think of two of the most popular songs for ukulele: “I’m Yours” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow!” Two very different styles and played on the same instrument!
9. The ukulele can inspire students to play an instrument outside of class.
First let me give my disclaimer that this is simply MY opinion and you are free to disagree. I do not judge other teachers for the choices they make for their classroom. We all do what is best for our classroom and our students. My kids play recorder in 3rd grade and for the most part, are pretty much over it by 4th grade. I know MANY teachers who successfully teach 4th and 5th grade recorder – to them, rock on! It just never worked for my classroom.
I really wanted my kids to have a closer study of an instrument in 4th and 5th grade. While I do have a set of xylophones, I didn’t feel this was an instrument they could be passionate about playing at home and in the community. The ukulele fit that bill for me.
10. It’s FUN!
There is no way to put this another way. There is something truly joyful about playing the ukulele. This instrument that got a reputation for being a toy has a magical effect on people and yet is truly a venue for teaching music literacy.
So now you know WHY to play ukulele? What is stopping you?
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Wrapping Things Up
My final advice? When in doubt, bake cookies! (Pillsbury makes an excellent pull apart cookie dough, I must say). A dozen cookies on someone’s desk can make them feel warm and gooey inside (pun intended). This strategy has been around since the beginning of time and is a tried and true method.
If you are new at school and looking for lessons for the first day, you might also enjoy this post on first day lesson plans!
Who did I miss? Any other key people in school we should add?