Tuesday, November 03, 2015

On Teaching Ukulele

(Recent Letter to my Ukulele Champion)

Miss Heidi —

Yesterday, I was feeling rather uncertain. Paradoxically, it was from a Baby Duck’s awe of your Mama Duck experience, your expertise, charm and charisma. Let’s just say our chat gave me lots things to go “huh” about.

BUT, then …

After wrestling particularly with two things I gleaned from our Skype — the circle activities and students playing w/o music (both of which kind of terrified me in some way that’s hard to explain) — I took a breath and made a plan for my Middle Schoolers and we met yesterday.

And it was my favorite class I’ve thus far had.

Oh, Heidi — it was so GREAT. First we played my staple warmup, the Lime in the Coconut as a "strum-tap” exercise, and then I paused melodramatically and proclaimed “this is getting too easy for you guys. Let’s get in a circle.” And you know what? They were … excited! I didn’t expect that. It was a small group, 5 kids, and we were knee-to-knee. Then I had everybody pass their ukuleles one person to the left and we did the reach-over strum-tap, and they LOVED IT. And we were close to each other and I felt like we were a group for the first time. THEN I had them do Surfin USA the same way. THEN we did the counterpoint vocal (“inside-outside USA”) “normally” but staying in the circle, knee-to-knee. Then I made them do both vocal parts AND do the reach-over strum (hilarious). Then we did some of “Psycho Killer.” And no music was involved. I’d warmed up the projector, but it was simply forgotten. By me and them. 

And as a crescendo, I taught them to play the main riff of Kashmir w/o music, which I’ve been threatening/promising/fantasizing about doing. And they DID it and they just looooved it. I’m including a handout I made for them to take home, for you to enjoy.

THANK YOU, Heidi. Everytime, thank you.

Today I have my grade school kids, who are my biggest challenge. I’ve got 15 of them. I want to do some circle things with them, probably easier things… maybe Some kind of thing centered around She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain or Jump Down, Turn Around. 

Hope you’re great and this makes you feel ever better about the magic you inspire. :-)