Learning uke IS good • Fossilized • Teaching teachers • Norah Jones
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Learning ukulele is good for children - proof!
What a gem this story is (and thank you for the reference, Martin Bond). Researchers in Toronto, Canada have found that when Year 3 and 4 students took weekly group ukulele lessons, it resulted in “larger increases in sympathy and pro-social behavior” than for those who did not. What's more, the ukulele classes created a collaborative environment and helped form social bonds between children who sang and played together. To any ukulele player, this sounds like it's straight from the vault of the bleeding obvious. However, properly conducted and peer-reviewed published studies like these are hard core evidence that speaks volumes to parents, teachers, schools, Government departments and funding bodies. On the other hand, the number of teachers who agree with the increase in pro-social behaviour could be an interesting follow-up study!
What I learned about teaching children from teaching adults
Stumbled upon this article on Musical Fossils, the blog by by piano teacher Matt Harre (a self-described fossil himself) who likes to write about the issues involved in teaching adults to play the piano. The article gives stories and examples of adults who have been profoundly affected by their young learning experiences - of music or school in general - and Matt's responses:
It wasn’t until I started listening to them (adult students) talk to themselves that I really began to realize how displeased they were with themselves and how this related to their past education. That past has taken so much from them. When they make mistakes they say things like:

“That was stupid!”
“What ARE you thinking of?”
“This is so easy. I shouldn’t be screwing up?”

The condescension in their voices is impressive. They are not talking to themselves with their own voices; they are talking to themselves with the voices of past teachers and parents.

I could relate to what he said as I've met plenty of ukers who do the same thing and I know I've spoken to myself like that too! Click here for the whole article - it's a great read.
Teaching the teachers
These adult learners are grade (or primary) school teachers (Years 3 - 5) from La Crosse, Wisconsin who have secured funding and are learning to play uke so they can teach it. Their instructors are the CheezLand Uke Band who, lo and behold appear to be a community ukulele group. It sounds like a great idea. I could not for the life of me find out what the 'cheez' refers to, though. Any inside knowledge gratefully received!
Norah Jones - Don't Know Why
This week's songsheet is the hit Don't Know Why recorded by American singer songwriter Norah Jones, and which won three Grammys in 2003. The song was written by performer, collaborator and producer Jesse Harris. I don't know what instrument he wrote it on, but Jones plays it on piano in her film clip. The song is a pain in the neck to play on guitar, but it's a beautiful thing on uke! There is a simplified version of it on Ukulele Tabs, but the simplification greatly reduces the musical expression of the song, in my humble jazz-chord loving opinion. So this version uses some of the guitar chords I found for it, and other uke ones that seem to fit like a glove. The song sheet is in the same key as the original, so once you've mastered the Bbsus4, play along with Norah...
Teaching is learning and learning is teaching
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