Ukuleles are all the rage

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Virgin Valley Elementary School music Teacher Jenny Bennett and Jaelin Worthen unpack and tune 30 brand new Waterman Soprano Ukuleles donated to the class by Kala Music.  Photo by Teri

Virgin Valley Elementary School music Teacher Jenny Bennett and Jaelin Worthen unpack and tune 30 brand new Waterman Soprano Ukuleles donated to the class by Kala Music. Photo by Teri

Jenny Bennett teaches 700 students in grades K-5 once a week in class sizes that average about 35 students. Most of Bennett’s music curriculum centers around melodies that can be sung or played on a recorder (a small flute-like instrument) one note at a time. Bennett says she can never get too much into teaching harmony and chords because she simply hasn’t got the resources.

In her recent online request for instruments and materials Bennett said, “Ukuleles are all the rage on YouTube these days. I want to capitalize on the popularity of the ukulele to help my students learn to play a string instrument. They are just the right size for my elementary students to play and with a few chords under their belts they’ll be able to play a variety of songs.”

Emily Walsh demonstrates how to hold a Ukulele as she spends hours helping to tune the 30 new Ukuleles donated by Kala Music.  Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Emily Walsh demonstrates how to hold a Ukulele as she spends hours helping to tune the 30 new Ukuleles donated by Kala Music. Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Bennett, along with many other teachers, don’t receive the funding required to purchase tools or, in Bennett’s case, instruments and sheet music to properly teach her class what they should know. Many teachers have gone far out of their way to purchase, at their own cost, many of the materials their students will be using in the classroom throughout the school year.

This year, thanks to Kala Music, Bennett’s students have 30 brand new Waterman soprano ukuleles for her classrooms to share. Bennett and her helpers, Karen and Emily Walsh along with Jaelin Worthen, spent four hours tuning them on Aug. 18.

Bennett is so grateful for the donation of ukuleles but it’s not quite enough to allow every child in her class to play one so Bennett has temporarily supplied a few of her own. Bennett is still trying to acquire six more ukuleles and has put up a campaign on a web site called DonorsChoose.org. This website is much like GoFundMe in that people who wish to donate to charity can go on the site and choose the classroom they’d like to donate to except this site is only for teachers and classroom projects.

Bennett applied for and received a grant from Project GET SMART and Adopt-A-Classroom for the purchase of five drums, 4 Shekeres and songbooks that she will use to teach her students rhythm and melody.  Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Bennett applied for and received a grant from Project GET SMART and Adopt-A-Classroom for the purchase of five drums, 4 Shekeres and songbooks that she will use to teach her students rhythm and melody. Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Bennett has received some donations for the additional instruments but is still $336 short. Her goal is $502 and she has to reach the goal to receive the money. Bennett’s campaign ends in November so she still has time to reach her goal. If you’d like to help donate to the campaign go to: https://www.donorschoose.org/project/aloha-ukuleles-in-elementary-music-cla/2046028/?rf=link-siteshare-2016-08-teacher-teacher_116926&challengeid=183995.

Ukuleles aren’t the only things the students will enjoy this year. Through Project GET SMART and Adopt-A-Classroom, Bennett also received a grant to purchase five drums, four shakers and two songbooks. She can’t wait to get started on her ‘World Music Drumming’ curriculum that she will use to teach her students rhythm and melody and the Ukuleles to teach her chords and harmony.

It seems that Bennett’s students are ahead of the game this year thanks to some pretty generous support from community members like Dr. Ann Rice and business partner Jim Wilson who founded Project GET SMART and are continuing to see that Virgin Valley Elementary School children have all the tools they need for their academic and musical education.

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