‘Beginner ukulele classes’ was the application’s title to the Neighbourhood Small Grants program.

The beginner ukulele classes were posted on Parkdale’s bulletin boards – an apartment complex for most seniors. So, most tenants were not working and, therefore, available during the day. We emphasized that not having any music training was perfectly OK – in fact, we encouraged those who had never had a music lesson of any kind.

Parkdale management allowed us to use a common area, the “Lounge,” for one afternoon a week. We had advertised that we would provide lessons for three weeks, with the idea that some students would want to advance by taking classes at local community centres.

Right away, we had six students sign up for classes. The lessons followed the same route that both of the Leaders – Judith and Lee – had followed when they learned. We kept it easy and simple – we wanted to give students some early success: that would give them the confidence to keep learning. Four students took to the uke immediately; unfortunately, two dropped out after only two classes. We had to let them go – people learn in different ways, and people have their own understanding. But the four who stayed loved playing.

The classes were held as advertised, plus one or two more practices a week! They were playing songs, and they were learning to read the chords. Playing the uke requires left-hand fretting, right-hand strumming, the brain reading the chords, the voice singing – it’s musical multi-tasking.

Playing music has many benefits, and playing the uke includes playing music with friends – it’s a social experience. Relationships are essential to health and well-being, especially for seniors. Numerous studies agree that music benefits the brain. Music can improve mood, possibly improve memory, and maybe even stall the onset of Alzheimer’s. All the health and well-being benefits are available in group ukulele lessons.

A happy coincidence: I play with another ukulele group, and we offered to perform at Parkdale; so, of course, we decided that the Ukesters (oh yes, the group of beginners gave themselves a name) could sing a few songs too. And that’s what happened. Residents of Parkdale were all invited to attend this ukulele event; we had song sheets printed for them so they could sign along, and we had tea and treats too. It was a huge success.

The Ukesters had been playing for only one month, they had learned three songs, and that’s what they played for their fellow residents. Everyone was surprised and impressed with how well they played, and the applause was long and loud.

The Ukesters want to carry on, learn more chords, and sing more songs. Judith and I will carry on with the uke classes at Parkdale.

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