"Is there an instrument that can be used to foster music literacy in the classroom that is fun to play, inexpensive, portable, and suited to any style of music?"
This was the question that faced a young J. Chalmers Doane in 1967. Doane, then newly-appointed Director of Music Education in Halifax, Nova Scotia, found his answer in that chronically underestimated instrument of Hawaiian fame and European ancestry, the ukulele. The Canadian school ukulele program was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
Fast-forward forty years. Canadian virtuoso James Hill – a student of the Doane ukulele program – emerges as one of the world’s foremost masters of the instrument. Passionate about sharing the gift of music with a new generation of students, James envisions a method that builds on the foundation laid by the Doane ukulele program, that is “fun from day one” and that opens doors for students wishing to pursue music further. Naturally, he seeks the benefit of Chalmers’ experience and together they begin to develop Ukulele in the Classroom.
The result is a sequential, performance-based ukulele method through which students explore elements of music including melody, harmony, rhythm, form, tempo, dynamics, and tone. Areas of skill include singing, picking, strumming, ear training, sight-reading, improvising, music theory, harmonizing, arranging, and more. First published in 2007, Ukulele in the Classroom set a new standard for ukulele pedagogy worldwide and is now available as a set of free e-books.
Ukulele has the power to bring positive change. Teaching ukulele isn't about frets and fingerings but, rather, about fostering empathy and humanity. When students play music, they grow up knowing how to listen, how to be creative and how to work together in harmony. If everyone played ukulele, wouldn't the world be a better place?
Ukulele today, music forever.
“It makes no difference what instrument you choose – recorder, trumpet, piano, bass, guitar, mandolin; none can compare with the ukulele as a means of music education in our schools.”
— J. Chalmers Doane, Teacher's Guide to Classroom Ukulele (1977)