Attea Middle School sixth graders, all 600 of them, are making ukuleles. Once complete, students will paint the musical instruments, learn to play them and even venture out into the community to lead sing-alongs.
Last year, a ukulele club started at Attea became so popular orchestra teacher Polly Yukevich said it needed to be expanded.
Later this month, students will travel to retirement homes and other locations to perform, leading their audiences in song.
Yukevich teamed up with Attea art teacher Sara Asplund and found ukulele kits that were both less expensive than purchasing individual ukuleles for students, and provided an added benefit of investment in the project.
Yukevich and Asplund applied for and were awarded a $7,000 grant from the Glenview Education Foundation for the project.
By putting together their own ukulele kits, Yukevich said students are more invested in learning to play and feel a deeper connection to the instrument. Students are also taking great care as they build their ukuleles because they know how it is built will affect the sound.
Once built, students are painting the instruments. Yukevich said paintings are often made to the theme of a song. All the students will keep their instruments.
Painting the plywood and mahogany ukuleles does not harm them and creates a slightly warmer tone than the instruments would have with a typical varnish finish, Yukevich said. Only the headboard and body are painted––fret boards are not.
Why ukuleles? Yukevich said many students used to learn music on recorders, but rhetorically asked when the last time someone pulled a recorder out to play at a party.
Ukuleles are small, easy to transport and easier than guitars for sixth graders with smaller hands to play, Yukevich said. The instrument is less intimidating than some for students providing “a low pressure fun” learning environment for kids that puts them on a path for a lifetime of music learning.
Written by Tom Robb Updated june 13 2012