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Ukulele pioneers James Hill and J. Chalmers Doane didn’t let a generation gap stand between them and their vision of a new ukulele teaching method.

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A “third-generation” Canadian ukulele player, James Hill was a student of Langley school teachers Jamie Thomas and Peter Luongo, themselves former students of Chalmers Doane. James spent over a decade with the Langley Ukulele Ensemble and, since the release of his first solo album in 2002, has become recognized as “one of the world’s top composers for the ukulele” (Rafe Mair, 600AM Vancouver) and a “rare peer” of Hawaii’s premier ukulelists (John Berger, Honolulu Star-Bulletin).

“One of the greats of this traditionally Hawaiian instrument” (CBC Radio), James has become known worldwide for his imaginative compositions and fearless disregard for the supposed limitations of the ukulele. “I remember the first time I heard Jimi Hendrix,” writes David Kidney of the Green Man Review, “he did things with an electric guitar that I hadn’t imagined, hadn’t thought possible. James Hill does that with the ukulele.”

Hill’s music is heard frequently on CBC, NPR and folk radio airwaves. Since the release of his critically acclaimed album A Flying Leap on the Borealis record label, he and partner/cellist Anne Janelle have become familiar faces on the summer folk festival scene. His album of duets with Janelle, True Love Don’t Weep, won a Canadian Folk Music Award and The Old Silo, his collaboration with producer Joel Plaskett, garnered a JUNO Award nomination.

Also a passionate teacher, James — who holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of British Columbia — has presented workshops throughout Canada and the United States, as well as in Japan, Germany, Italy, Sweden and New Zealand. He has twice been invited to teach and perform at the renowned `Ukulele and Slack Key Guitar Institute in Waimea, HI and has lectured at the Queen’s University School of Music in Kingston, ON.

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Often called “The Pied Piper of Halifax,” Nova Scotia native J. Chalmers Doane has introduced thousands of students to the magic of music. From 1967 to 1985, he emerged as an imaginative and dynamic Director of Music Education in the Halifax school district, establishing one of the largest string programs in the country, implementing instrumental classes taught by specialists, and directing award-winning stage bands.

It is his profound belief in the value of the ukulele, however, for which he is best known. Doane conceived of the ukulele as a vehicle for musicianship, thus his emphasis on music theory, sight-reading, ear training, singing, solo performance, and ensemble playing. At the same time, Doane saw the ukulele as a serious musical instrument, one capable of expressing a wide range of emotion and providing a great deal of personal joy.

His infectious charisma and positive approach to music education inspired other teachers to follow his lead. The Doane ukulele program, with its beginnings in the Halifax elementary public schools, would ultimately reach over 50,000 school children and adults throughout Canada and the United States.

In Halifax, many students stayed with the ukulele program even after taking up a traditional wind or string instrument, and eventually there evolved a hierarchy of all-city ukulele ensembles, the best of which was the famous “A” Group, which performed across Canada and produced many recordings and television specials.

Recently made a member of the Order of Canada, Chalmers maintains a busy schedule as a teacher and performer in the Halifax, N.S. area.

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“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)