Girl’s Voices from India

 

10856802_421121764713916_7024277974695906054_o

I have written about Survivor Girl Ukulele Band several times here- These are girls in India, rescued from Human trafficking who are living in shelters and learning to play ukulele!  They have a very modest Kickstarter project right now.  Do not hesitate- SUPPORT THEM! A very small contribution will get you a copy or download. A larger donation will feel soooo goood! And- the music is LOVELY!!!! What are you waiting for? Click already!

Advertisements

How Old (or Young) Should a Kid Be to Learn the Ukulele

Ready to play?

Ready to learn? Ready to play? Or both!

UPDATE: COLOR-ALONG UKULELE, our book for young people who want to learn uke is available at www.Danielward.net Be sure to download the FREE SOUNDTRACK!

Is my child old enough to learn ukulele?  At what age is a kid ready?
A friend with twins asked me this question in message.  I started to write. And kept writing.  A few hours later I realized I had written a blog post. This answer pertains not just to our  book, COLOR-ALONG UKULELE  but to all kinds of questions parents have about kids, music and ukulele.
      There is a Long Answer and a short one.
The short answer ….it all depends on the kid, approach and the expectations.
      Here it comes– brace yourself, pour a drink: The Long Answer.
      Kids learn through a feedback loop, and progress is determined by their developmental readiness in response to their environment and their temperament.  When children are given stimulus to emulate, especially stimulus  which relates to them and to which they can relate– they take off in the areas that engage them.  I am sure you have either experienced or heard from parents how much faster younger siblings walk, talk etc… than their older counterparts.  One reason is that they are surrounded by stimulus relating to them, showing them how to be a child.
      Music, like language, is learned initially through a feedback loop.  It is a rare youngster who, at 5, is ready to physically finger chords or is mentally able to sit and play for more than a few moments.  But that does not mean that they are not learning! They are learning all the time, and music is no exception.
      The illustrations in the book, the fun pictures and the chord diagrams, give a visual focal point for the youngest kids.  Many wee folk love to look at pictures.  The recordings create the feedback loop of sound.  Kids learn intervals, melodies, and lyrics with alacrity.  When we know a song a song by heart before we try to learn to play it on an instrument, the outcome can be pure joy (and less frustration).
      Having an instrument on hand which a child can play with, and eventually play, is a great thing at any age.  $50 models are well suited for this.  Instruments, not toys; nothing precious–if they get broken… meh. Here’s my favorite starter: Ohana sk-10 from MIM
Tune them as often as you can.  Write “G” “C” “E” and “A” on the tuning pegs and number the strings with a sharpie!  Put a sticker on the fretboard where a finger should be placed to make a C chord.  Let a kid put stickers on the body with impunity!  Draw a smiley face on the top/side of the instrument to re-enforce “this end up”. Encourage strumming with a steady beat and clap along, saying “one, two, three, four…one, two…”.
      On the whole, I see kids in 3rd and 4th grade  having the motor skills, ability and  developmental maturity to really learn.  That is when I can take a classroom of 30+ kids and, in the course of a few weeks,  get them to play songs with 4 chords.
Ready or not.... here she comes! AKA musician's kid having fun in a dressing room.

Ready or not…. here she comes! AKA musician’s kid having fun in a dressing room.

      I have known a few kids- very few- who are really ready to play at 5 or 6.  Often they are kids of musicians who have grown up in households filled with music and experimentation, rehearsing; who have watched their parents sweat and rejoice the same way they do. Kids who are driven to practice, and know how to do it. It is pretty rare. (In fact, just as many musician’s kids are apathetic towards the idea of playing or performing)
      I do know that young kids who learn along side their parents learn better.  Children learn through watching us model behavior far more readily that they do through instruction. Some parents who feel insecure about their musical abilities worry about modeling effectively.  I don’t.  I think kids “ears”  grow irrespective of an adult’s shortcomings in pitch or rhythm.  To see a parent try, struggle, unafraid of failure… that is big. Perhaps even bigger than learning ukulele. Also, kids value what we value, and if they see music is important to you, it will be important to them.
      In private lessons or small groups I see kids at 6-8 able to focus and enjoy their achievements.  I have taught  private lessons for families in their homes.  A parent or two, and a couple of siblings, together sitting on the floor.  Rarely will a child of 5 or younger participate for more than 5 minutes.  Older kids may hang in for 15 or more. The parent will finish up the allotted time …and then some.  When I return the following week, I will often hear that the little kid was singing the song we covered and messing around with their instruments the next day.
      So- for the experience of making music, your kid is ready, regardless of age. They do it every day. Having an instrument to experiment on will give them tools they may be craving. They learn songs by ear fast- and never forget them!
The first 3 songs (in our book)  can be played by very young kids, 3 and up. They are strumming on the open strings of the ukulele, learning basic rhythm. Great developmentally appropriate goal!
But to really be able to play the instrument… probably 7-9 years is a realistic expectation.
They are NEVER too young to see and hear YOU learn to play!
What are you waiting for?!

Between a Uke and a Hard Place

Bringing ukuleles to Haiti or India- isn’t that a bit frivillous?

Yes. It is. Ukuleles are silly and fun. But you know if you have ever been in a hard place, love and joy can lift you on to your feet. Here are a few stories about Haiti and India and ukuleles and love.

Kids being....kids! The power of play should not be underestimated.

Kids being….kids! The power of play should not be underestimated.

Two ladies I know with similar names, Laurie and Lori know a lot about this. Lori Goldberg is the Mother of Global Family Philanthropy. Daniel and I went to Haiti with her a few years ago with a dozen ukuleles in tow. Laurie Kallevig leads the Survivor Girl Ukulele Band. She is playing ukulele in India right now with a group of girls (and boys!) who have been victims of human traficking.  It’s not about discovering the next virtuoso– although you never know– it probably won’t help any one of them make a living (I can tell you how well it’s working for me!) It is about else-something essential and intangible: hope.

With your help we will be sending both groups support materials, CDs and copies of COLOR-ALONG Ukulele.  (The Kickstarter campaign is almost over- If you wish to order a copy or fund a program make sure you get in before April 1!)

Because of their dangerous situation, the girls faces do not appear in photos, but you know there is a huge smile just out of frame.

Because of their dangerous situation, the girls faces do not appear in photos, but you know there is a huge smile just out of frame.

Read this blog post of Lauries–It will help you understand…  Why Does She Love Me? is about one of her girls, facing her struggle to understand love. Laurie now has two “chota teachers”(little teachers) helping her- her first part time employees! All the stories in her blog are so beautiful I can not do them justice by exerpting, I suggest you read them through.

Nice ride!

Nice ride!

The Haitian taxi is a pickup-truck. Rain or shine, 15-50 people sit and stand in the bed of old Toyotas and bump up and down the roads. Rain or shine, you get a great view from there.

256753_10150272462624048_2501271_o

Not only did I see the lives of the people who live there, washing laundry in streams, cookig by the roadside, but I got to see my own life flash before my eyes quite a few times.

The end of the commute to the orphanage was always the best part. As we crackled up the rocky drive the children would stream out of the whitewashed concrete block home, running to greet the truck, chanting “gee-tar, gee-tar!!!!!”  (Their name for the the ukuleles)  until we had taken them down from the wall and passed them around for the day’s first impromptu lesson.

IMG_0073

I have no dillusions about my impact on other people’s lives- I fully realize that the gift I recieved was greater than anything I left behind. The laughter and the joy, the love I felt will be with me always and has made my life better.

Laurie has given a huge part of her life to the girls in India, and I think she would be the first tell you how much she is receiving in return.

There are many ways to be rich.

Be frivilous with your wealth, indulge in joy. Laugh. Play. With love, the more you give away, the more you have.