Saturday, February 21, 2009

Online Ukulele Lessons and Tools

As a specials/electives teacher, I hand all my evaluations and comments to classroom teachers and advisors the day before conferences start. I get to spend the two parent/teacher conference days working on all those projects that keep getting pushed to the back burner.

I've been delighted by the number of kids who have let me know that they're playing ukulele at home--whether they dusted off that old uke in the closet, or bought a new one. However, some kids and parents have also told me that they're having trouble practicing at home because they aren't quite sure what to do, and don't know how to tune the ukulele. I decided a good use for all this high tech stuff I'm always promoting would be to put some videos on my blog to help families get started with ukulele at home. So during my work days, I sat down and recorded five video tutorials, from tuning your ukulele to first songs. I hope you find them useful! Here's the first one, and the rest can be found through my channel at YouTube.

The rest of the videos will teach you a couple of songs on the open strings, the C chord and F chord, and several two-chord songs including "Hey Lolly" and "Simple Gifts."

I also found this great little interactive ukulele chord chart:

If you're really ready for a challenge, check out the huge selection of songs at Dr. Uke. Happy playing!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Middle School visits River City, and a shout-out!

It was a big weekend at the Middle School--months of hard work culminated in an amazing run of "The Music Man." All three shows were sold out, and we even had quite a few folks at our open dress rehearsal. The actors were amazing! I feel so honored and blessed to work in such an energized, positive, and talented community. As I told many friends and parents, musically directing this show was such a blast that it didn't even feel like work--except learning to play that darn scene change music at the last minute! During the shows, I acted as musical director/pianist/producer of sound effects... and performed my debut on snare drum, hitherto heard only on my drum pads for Rock Band 2 for the Wii.

One of my favorite parts of the MS show experience was the opportunity to work with Toni (director) and Henry (producer). I look forward to many more musicals with this team. I'd also like to give a shout-out to Henry's blog, where he publishes his wonderful poetry. His most recent entry, "giving enough time," includes a sweet picture of my little one.

Trimester 2 is drawing to a close, and our third trimester will begin right after Feb. parent/teacher conferences. I'll miss musically directing, but I'll have the opportunity to teach two new classes. In "Renaissance Consort," students will learn about the Renaissance while putting together a consort of soprano and alto recorders. In "That's Whack," we'll pretty much whack on things. Those things will include Boomwhackers (musical plastic tubes), small percussion, and "found" instruments. Both groups will perform late in the trimester. I'll also be teaching the remaining third of the first-year class in music rotation.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

GarageBand, Music Man, and LS Ukuleles

Welcome back to school, a few weeks late! There is so much going on it's hard to know where to start. Here are a few highlights:

In First-Year Music Rotation in the MS, we finished up our unit on melody and Orff instruments, and moved on to the much awaited GarageBand unit. I love using GarageBand with students because it's so intuitive--almost like a musical version of desktop publishing software. With just a little knowledge you can create an appealing first project, but the sky's the limit for a creative musician. Next week we'll have the mobile lab (thanks Jim!) to work on individual short projects, so last week, we learned the basics by creating a collaborative class song. Click here to listen. I think it sums up our trimester pretty well. :-) I'll post some of our individual projects next week, and stay tuned to hear about next year's GarageBand elective!

"Music Man" opens in less than a week. Yikes! At this point in a production, the directors always feel like they need another month to be ready for opening night... and this show is no different! But we have an awesome cast and crew, and I know we will pull it together. It's mostly sold out, but if you miss out on tickets, please come to our open dress rehearsal this Wed. from 6:30-9:30. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first musical theater project at CFS, and can't wait for the next!

The first week back from the holidays, I gave my Lower Schoolers a clue about a big surprise coming to music class. The clue was this: "There are hundreds, maybe thousands of songs that only have one or two chords in them." To their great frustration, I refused to answer any questions about the clue or the surprise. Last week, they were presented with 18 shiny new ukuleles!
Ukuleles have become a fixture in the Middle School, thanks to the efforts of Ida and Matthew. Now, we'll be starting them in the Lower School and kids will soon be able to take advanced ukulele electives in the Middle School. River and Sky will learn the playing position, the parts of the uke, the basics of the four strings, a basic strum or two, one or two chords, and some individual notes for playing tunes. Forest and Mountain will learn all this, then add on more chords and fingerpicking. We'll continue to play recorders in Forest and Mountain, too, so all our older kids will have wind and string experience.

I'll be sending an email to all our LS parents to give you more details about the ukuleles, including information if you'd like to have one at home (completely optional). I highly recommend High Strung in Durham for all your uke needs--it's a great local store and they are one of the only places that professionally sets up even their cheapest ukuleles. Once "Music Man" is over, I hope to create a couple of short video tutorials you can use at home if you decide to purchase a ukulele.