Ukes in Libraries: Check It Out

Daniel and I are thrilled to start 2019 off working at the best place in the world: THE LIBRARY!!!!

“It’s one of the last places you can go that you don’t have to buy or believe in anything to come in.”- Annie Spence, librarian.

Below is a list of the branches where we will be teaching in the Los Angeles area. There will be a limited number of instruments to borrow at each session, and learning materials for all to utilize. You can bring your own instrument, whatever shape it is in, and we will do our best to make it playable for you, or check out a ukulele kit from your local LAPL branch!

While we are on the love-affair with libraries topic, listen to what This American Life has to say about them.

JANUARY

17th San Pedro Branch LAPL 4pm

19th Memorial Branch LAPL 2pm

26th Santa Monica Main Branch Kids 2pm, Adults 3pm

26th Venice Branch LAPL 3 pm

28th Fairfax Branch LAPL 5pm

FEBRUARY

2nd Venice Branch LAPL 3pm

9th Santa Monica Main Branch Kids 2pm, Adults 3pm

9th Venice Branch LAPL 3 pm

16th Los Angeles Central Library 2pm

21st Playa Vista Library 6:30pm

23rd Santa Monica Main Branch Kids 2pm, Adults 3pm

23rd Los Angeles Central Library 2pm

MARCH

2nd Los Angeles Central Library 2pm

6th Jefferson Branch LAPL 3pm

7th Playa Vista Branch 6:30pm

“A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. It’s a community space. It’s a place of safety, a haven from the world. It’s a place with librarians in it. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now.” ―Neil Gaiman in The Guardian

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Color-Along Ukulele

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The SECOND EDITION has arrived!

With a few small corrections, the 2018 edition of COLOR-ALONG UKULELE is in stock on my website and at Ukulele Magazine’s store! This is a fun method book designed to be used by ALL-AGES. If you are an adult, you will enjoy the step-by-step lessons and familiar songs. If you are working with kids, this is a handy guide to get them going and keep them strumming, complete with a page of helpful classroom hints. Great for kid’s groups, classrooms, families and individuals!

Tunes start simple, with one chord songs that even the most newbie players can successfully strum.  Every new song teaches a lesson and draws on a world of traditions, from Scottish, Mexican,  German and American folk traditions. There’s even a song in Hawaiian at the very end!

LEARN BY EAR

A companion soundtrack  accompanies this book, and it’s FREE! These recordings were created so that you can listen, learn and play along, and  are extended with fun additional verses so that  players can get their groove on. If you are a teacher, the long playing tunes allow you lead a class in a musical game, or let students listen while they tune up. Or, to the point,  COLOR-ALONG to the songs as you learn them!

Kids too young to play can learn the songs by ear, and basic music concepts by listening. Families can learn together. It’s fun for all ages.

DOWNLOAD NOW- click this link!

Books are available at Danielward.net

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?!

Ukulele Lending Library

Imagine this- flash a library card and you can check out an instrument for a month at a time. Now that is civilized! Further proof that libraries are the greatest of human institutions: ukulele collections!

Kids of all ages(!) play ukes from the Killian Mansfield Collection at the Phoenicia Library grand re-opening in January!

Kids of all ages(!) play ukes from the Killian Mansfield Collection at the Phoenicia Library grand re-opening in January.

The Killian Mansfield Ukulele Collection at the Phoenicia Library in upstate New York has 30 ukuleles to loan. Their neighbor, the Olive Library West Shokan NY has followed suit and has a new ukulele collection.  We are thrilled to be sending books both of these libraries to compliment their collection!  Our Kickstarter campaign for our forthcoming book COLOR-ALONG UKULELE offers supporters to buy books to be donated to some great causes.  These libraries are among them, and I would like to tell you a little more about them.

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Phoenicia Library does after school ukulele programs for elementary and middle grade students.  The library sponsors regular family ukulele classes, jams and occasional performances.  However, the library is woefully understocked in the ukulele teaching/learning materials department. (Let’s help them out there, shall we?)

Here is what a board member Mark Lerner had to say about the library:

“The Phoenicia Library is located in the high peaks of NY’s Catskill Mountains. The library is the heart of our rural community, providing books, information, meeting space, internet access, and programming for children and adults. The 2011 fire led us to an ambitious rebuilding project (entirely paid for by grants, insurance, and private donations), and the newly re-opened library is the first American library built to Passive House specifications, a rigorous standard for energy efficiency that reduces our energy consumption by over 80%. In addition to the Killian Mansfield Ukulele Collection, the library houses the Jerry Bartlett Memorial Angling Collection, a museum of fly-fishing that also lends out fishing rods.”

Mark is a great artist- both visual and musical, and a great friend and currently lives in Phoenicia. Go to his website, or check out his blog, Every Band I’ve Ever Been In.  You can also see his fine work on both of my CDs– he did the graphic design.

And he is the graphic designer for  COLOR-ALONG UKULELE, our method-coloring book being funded on Kickstarter right now.   You can pre-order books until April 1 at reduced cost for yourself or for your favorite ukulele program.

Speaking of libraries- tomorrow I will be doing a children’s program at the Memorial Branch Library in Los Angeles at 10 am. Come show off your library card and sing with me!

Coming soon to a library near you!

Coming soon to a library near you!

49

49: The first perfect square where the digits are perfect squares. The nickname for plutonium. The year associated with the California Gold Rush. San Francisco’s football team. The number of days Siddhartha spent meditating.  The number appearing in the title of my favorite (and perhaps the only accessible) Thomas Pynchon novel, The Crying of Lot 49. 

And, as of 10:10 am March 4th, 2015– my age.

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When I turned 40 I suddenly realized how young I was. Now, I  realize I am not so young. I rejoice to be coming into a perfect number at the same time that our cultural zeitgeist begins to reject its distaste for maturity. At the crest of “the hill” there is a heckofa view. You can see the horizon at either end: the vantage point of middle age. It is clarifying.

I know who I am, I know where I am going and where I want to go. I know what I want to do and I know how to do it, but I am still ready and able to learn (witness: I am dutifully removing all my double-spaces-after-periods). I understand how much more time I may have (if I am lucky), and I hold each of those days dear.

I am proud to pass this milestone with my sleeves rolled up. On this day I will sing with 7 classes of preschoolers at two different schools, and be rewarded by wet-nosed hugs more precious than gold and more virulent than an ICU. I will spend at least 4 hours driving my car back and forth across LA in the service of my children, and I will enjoy their company and hear their stories on the drive and be glad for every hour-per-mile we creep. My morning will start with making breakfast and packing lunches and my day will end with doing dishes– a testament to our wealth and good fortune.

…And I will excitedly check on our Kickstarter project as it rapidly nears it’s  funding goal, and know that maybe the crazy idea I have of connecting through music isn’t quite so crazy after all. In fact, it is the best birthday present there is!