California Educator

May / June 2017

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T he ukulele is small, has just four strings, and is fairly easy to play. Neither toy nor miniature guitar, it falls somewhere in between, making it the Rodney Dangerfield of musi- cal instruments because it doesn't get much respect. Perhaps that's due to its name. Brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants in 1879, the instrument was given its Hawai- ian name meaning "jumping flea" because players' fingers jump from string to string. For baby boomers, it evokes memories of Tiny Tim , w hose un exp ect edly high fal setto ren dition of " Tipto e Throu g h the Tulips" while strumming the uke was an instant sensation , in th e sam e way William Hung's off-key rendition of Ricky Martin's hit "She Bangs" evoked national hilarity for millennials. B u t i n t h e s k i l l e d h a n d s o f m u s i c t each er L auren B owman and students at L aw n d al e Hi g h S ch o o l , th e ukul el e i s f i n a l l y g e tt i n g i t s d u e . B o w m a n , a C e n t i n e l a Va l l e y S e c o n d a r y Te a c h e r s A ss o c i a t i o n m e m b e r, l e a r n e d t o p l ay ukulele through the Internet 13 years ago while bedridden with a knee injury. Now lovely strumming sounds emanate from her classroom and throughout the school at lunchtime. Students as diverse as football players, rockers, rappers, and those with special needs have taken th e tiny instr um ent to h eart. Th e The Ukulele Gets Respect Meet the state's only high school uke teacher By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Photos by Scott Buschman Lauren Bowman in front of the class ukuleles In Lauren's words: It's a great instrument because… anyone at any age can learn to play it and master it within a short amount of time. You can play any kind of music style on it. Students this past year have learned to cover songs by Maroon 5, Twenty One Pilots, Vance Joy, Ed Sheeran, Adele, Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo`ole and Bruno Mars. Now they can cover songs independently. Ukulele is much easier on the fingers than a guitar. It's portable. You can take it anywhere. It weighs less than 2 pounds, and you can get a decent one for $45. Students enjoy playing because… it's fun. Students pick up the ukulele who would never dream of playing an instrument. Students can play covers or write their own music. And those with beautiful voices can audition and accom- pany themselves on the ukulele. In the future… I'd definitely like to take some of the students to a ukulele festival in Hawaii, where ukulele classes are required in schools. We just got University of California "a-g" approval, and I'm working on a second-level ukulele class. You might say that the ukulele is finally getting the respect it deserves. 15 May / June 2017 perspectives

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