Saturday, November 27, 2010

All I Want for Christmas are Ukuleles

 I used to play guitar in kindergarten. Guitars are wonderful instruments to accompany classroom singing. But I don’t play guitar much anymore.

For years, I’ve seen kindergartners get guitars for Christmas—toy guitars—maybe because they’ve seen me play guitar and want to make music like Mr. Gurney does.

For years I’ve watched students abandon music making soon after starting out on guitar. Guitars, even really good guitars, are very hard to play well. Toy guitars are impossible to play well. They go out of tune, they buzz, they sound terrible, their steel strings hurt young fingertips, and they have two too many strings. Five year olds don’t stand a chance on a guitar. I doubt that even John Lennon could have played guitar at five. (I first picked up guitar in my sophomore year in college. I was nineteen years old, and it was hard for me to learn.)

After years of playing guitar in kindergarten, I’ve abandoned the six-string guitar in favor of the four-string ukulele. Ever since I got my first ukulele about six years ago, I’ve been aware that a uke is a much better instrument to start out on. Kids, I hope, will want to play what Mr. Gurney plays, so I’d better play the instrument best suited to beginners.

Ukuleles are REAL instruments, not toys. They’re much less expensive than guitars. They’re a whole lot easier than guitars to play. An interested and disciplined five year-old has a chance to successfully play a ukulele. An added bonus: ukuleles are the guitar’s first cousin. Strumming and chord fingering skills learned on the ukulele will easily transfer over to guitar because ukulele’s tuning is closely related to guitar tuning.

This year I want to add more ukuleles in the classroom. I’ve working with a ukulele manufacturer/importer (Kala Ukuleles) and a local music store (People’s Music) and a generous anonymous benefactor who together will help me acquire quality ukuleles at a huge discount for kindergarten.  It’s a start. I hope to get ten ukuleles. I’m appealing to Dunham School parents to chip in whatever you can afford to help me buy more good quality instruments for classroom use.

Monday morning I’ll have a donation jar in the classroom, and this year I encourage you to offer a donation lieu of other holiday gifts for the classroom or for the teacher.

Thank you!

Question for Dunham parents: Would any of you like to see a recently released 80-minute documentary movie about the  comeback of the ukulele? It's called called "The Mighty Uke" and it covers the history of the ukulele and features ukuleles in schools. I'd show the movie at Dunham on Wednesday night, December 8 at 6 PM (early so bedtime isn't too late). Here's the trailer:

I am willing to show the movie if six of you will come.

(Please leave a comment if you're interested in attending the screening.)

Meanwhile, check out this little ukulele player:


Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Gurney,
The Kistenmacher's are interested.
John, Julie and Hannah

Dan Gurney said...

Okay, that's great! I hope more will want to come also.

Gina said...

LOVE your blog!

Anonymous said...

I want to come, but we are moving. Sounds like fun! Kelli

Anonymous said...

Would love to come although Wed. nights are really difficult for kids & I. April, Justin & Jaelyn

Dan Gurney said...

Well, we'll try again after the holdays, I guess.

Matthew said...

Sorry Dan...but I just don't buy it! If you'd just treat OUR Kindergartners like the North Korean's, I think they could all play guitar ;)

Dan Gurney said...

Hey, Matthew, thanks for this link. I am amazed!! I'll post this up on my blog tonight. Wow. Okay, so five year olds CAN play guitar well. That kid plays guitar better than anyone I know.