Last week Gemma posted a blog about the awesome projects she completed with her groups last year, and her plans for the new school year. It was wonderful to hear the students' recordings and I was very impressed with the arrangements and level they've achieved.
So, not to be outdone, I thought I'd blog too!
Most of my groups had a go at songwriting. This is a great way of getting mixed age and ability groups working together. Using chords which beginners can quickly master - C, Am, and F - the children came up with a basic chord progression and added their own individual parts. We worked on the lyrics as a group.
Little Melton beginners wrote a song called I Love Doughnuts - great fun! We performed it to the school in assembly at the end of term.
Hempnall beginners wrote I Go Down a River, which they also performed in assembly. Browick Road Primary wrote Nature Song and the Food Song, which worked so well that I taught it to my other schools, who made up their own verses.
I like burgers covered in sauce
Sausage and chips of course
Little Melton Uke Club performed their songs on the band stand at South Norfolk on Show. Performance opportunities are important because they give us a goal to work towards and a great sense of achievement at the end.
So what are we working on this year?
Little Melton improvers will be working on our own arrangement of Count On Me by Bruno Mars and writing a rap song. Little Melton Beginners, Mulbarton Infants, Browick Road Primary, Hempnall and Woodside Infants will be learning the popular Disney song Someone to Lava and Blast Off. As always we'll be doing lots of work on playing in time together and exploring different sounds and strums.
Also this term we've introduced the Music Monsters for years 1 and 2. Now, although you can't see them, the Music Monsters have very sensitive ears. They love to hear students making beautiful music together and listening nicely, but if it gets too noisy they have to go back in their box, so each student is responsible for keeping their monster happy. This idea I 'borrowed' from one of my one-to-one students Shaun, who is a primary school teacher, so thank you Shaun!
I guess we better do the Monster Mash sometime this year too then!
Children’s Ukulele Festival
Thursday 2 February 2017
ILOVEUKE has teamed up with The Garage to offer Norfolk’s first Children’s Ukulele Festival, an event for primary school students in years 1 to 3 who are learning to play the uke.
This fun-filled day will take place at The Garage in Norwich on Thursday 2 February 2017 (World Play Your Ukulele Day) from 10am to 2pm.
Activities will include music-making workshops, performances from students, a large group strum-along and a participatory performance from The Ukulele Banana Band in the theatre. There will even be a 45-minute ‘crash-course’ in playing the ukulele for teachers and support staff.
The aim of the festival is to inspire, motivate and celebrate the achievements of children who attend Uke Clubs or are learning ukulele in school.
For some schools, where desirable, there will be an opportunity to gain Arts Award Discover.
The event is funded by The National Foundation for Youth Music and will be free to attend. Schools will be asked to provide their own transport, and children will need a packed lunch.
Places are limited to 90 children. We expect it to be popular, so places will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.
If you would like your ukulele students to take part please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your places. Numbers can be finalised at the beginning of January.
Last term I had lots of fun teaching multi-part arrangements with some of the junior school groups. Eaton Primary did Just Can't Get Enough by Depeche Mode, the Pink Panther and their favourite Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes.
The Tuesday Avenues group also did Seven Nation Army, along with Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles, Budapest, the Milna Song (one of my own arrangements) and My Generation by The Who.
I was super impressed at how well they all worked together, not just in the classroom but learning and practising their own parts at home so that they were ready to practice as a group each week. For some of them it was the first time they had worked like that and was quite a big learning curve, but they all stepped up, and their playing and enjoyment improved a lot because of it.
So I had a challenge this term. To find more songs for the juniors that I would be able to be split into several different parts, at different difficulty levels and that the children would like. You can't please everyone, so this term I have chosen 3 very different songs for the junior school groups to learn, in the hope that everyone will like at least one of them!
After watching Stranger Things over summer, I renewed my love of The Clash, and so I worked out a 4 part arrangement of Should I Stay or Should I go. This is also a song that the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain have been doing for some time, so it's no stranger to the ukulele. It should be lots of fun.
I then trawled through a load of Beatles songs (as requested) to find one that I was excited about teaching and that would be a challenge enough to some of the more advanced students. Although not originally by the Beatles, I went for a personal favourite 'Til There Was You'. This song has some more unusual chords in it (G dim, G+, Ebm) and it'll be fun to see who can play the middle 8 solo. Most of my students are a little shy at singing, so the vocal line will also be played on the ukulele.
Then I thought I should really do something more current. At the ripe old age of 36 i thought Firework by Katie Perry was really current. Turns out it's over 6 years old. When i was 8 years old I would have thought any music that was more than a year old was ancient. So although I'm attempting to do something that I think is current, 6 years old will have to do. Katy Perry's still current, right? I've put in a chorus to 'Shake It Off' by Taylor Swift in the song too. I know she's around at the moment...
I like the sentiment behind Firework. I'd never paid much attention to it before but after seeing the video I thought it's a good one to teach. It'll also fit nicely with the Bonfire season. So hopefully some of the Year 4 girls that requested some Katy Perry will do me proud by singing with it too.
The new starters at Recreation Road and Colman Infant will be learning the basics and the classics including 'Strumming Ukulele' , 'My Dog Has Fleas' and 'Yellow Submarine', I may even try my new song idea 'That's Cool, That's Rad', but it might be a flop.
Year 3's that have already been with me for a year will be learning how to read TAB and learning new chords and strumming techniques. The Monster Mash Medley will be their project for this term, and possible the 12 bar blues.
So that's the plan... I can't wait to get stuck in and see if my song arrangements work and inspire. Watch this space as I endeavour to add audio and possibly video recordings of the results.