Category Archives: Teaching Ukulele

Fall Registration for Ukulele programs

So I guess I’ve “burned the boats”, now that I’ve given up my day job to focus on doing what I love. I’ll be teaching Ukulele in a set of new programs here and there. Here are the details:

2014_08_0002This fall, I’m starting a new ukulele program for adults at Brookfield HS, through the OCDSB’s General Interest Program. I’ll be using the ukulele method from James Hill/Chalmers Doane which includes some basic note reading, scales and playing ensemble pieces, along with chord-accompanied singing. Level 1 is for new beginners on Tuesday evenings and Level 2 on Wednesday evenings, is for intermediate players who may have already mastered some chords but would like to learn to do more with the ukulele. Material covered will be similar in both classes, levels simply determine the pace of the lessons. The first 10-week session starts on Sep. 23. Registration is available online or by phone: 613-239-2751.

For kids at Castor Valley ES, Rockcliffe Park PS and Elmdale PS, registration to their Extra-curricular programs begins on Sep. 2.

And finally, I’ll be teaching the senior students at SuzukiMusic again this year, and also adding an open adult class on Saturdays there too. Parents of senior students, former Suzuki students and even grandparents are welcome to join me for some SuzUkulele fun! Registration information for this one will be sent directly to SuzukiMusic community members.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about programs!

Endings are just new beginnings

It’s been released for almost 3 weeks now and if you’re interested in making sweet sounds on an ukulele and you haven’t been down to The Ukulele Way yet, you need to come and have a look. It’s not just a new book or method of learning but it’s also a place for players, teachers and performers to gather as a community and learn and share together.

I can’t say enough about James Hill as a musician, performer, teacher and master of the ukulele. His entire concept for this website, which was 3 years in the making, also shows his capacity for thinking big as a creative and very kind human being. Even the video ad above reminds me of his very “Zen-like” teaching style. One that is balanced, calm and respectful of everyone’s individual learning processes. (One of his first required reading suggestions, when I started his teacher certification program back in 2011, was a book called Zen Guitar. This book changed everything about how I approach my own self as a learner, as well as my students.

At last year’s JHUI institute in Vancouver, he announced to us that this new technology was coming. A few of his teachers in training signed on to become beta-testers and promoters of this new venture, myself included. And now it’s finally arrived and running full steam ahead.

This is just in time for me, as I have just completed the final JHUI Level 3 teacher certification. (See the lovely new purple badge I am proudly displaying in the top left corner?) Even though I’m very proud to have accomplished this, sometimes endings can feel sad. Like I won’t be going back to institute to see the many friends I made there in the past 3 summers. But as this phase ends for me, The Ukulele Way is a new beginning that will enable me to really keep in touch with these old friends, meet new ones and keep learning, teaching and playing my heart out for years ahead.

If you decide to come and visit The Ukulele Way, you can find me there at


Melanie Doane: Teaching Kids Music

In a TVO interview with Steve Paikin, Melanie Doane, says and does it all to promote the ukulele in schools. Grab a coffee. It’s worth the whole viewing. Favourite moments are describing her early lessons with dad (5:20), and playing the “Eliminator Game” (14:06) with her kids. Feeling very inspired after watching this. Congratulations to Melanie on releasing her new website yesterday. Check it out!

Recitals, love ’em or not, they’re important

Recital season is upon us. With my own kids playing in concerts and recitals here and there with their school and private teachers, ( I still get butterflies for them, right before they get up there) plus preparing my own ukulele students for this annual spring ritual, recitals, and the need for them at all, have been taking up a lot of my thoughts, time and energy during these past weeks. Last night, I was at my first formal recital, as the teacher, and I will admit that I was more than a bit nervous. Not all of my students from the 3 schools were able to come, but most were there. Some filled with courage and excitement, some feeling a little apprehensive and scared, but all those present were ready. The moment I saw all their faces coming into the warm-up room and I started tuning ukuleles, pep-talking and rehearsing, everything fell into place and I honestly enjoyed every moment.

It’s important to do things that scare us a little; to step out of our protective sphere and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. So parents, yes, the recital is important but not in the way we often think it is. It really doesn’t matter if there are wrong notes or things don’t go exactly as they did in the practice room. In fact, the less said about that, the better. It’s all about getting up there, doing it and having someone there to witness and support you. There’ll always be another recital around the corner and you’ll probably do better next time. The more we do them, the more we get to know ourselves.

New beginner ukulele sessions starting in January!

We’re offering new sessions in January for beginner ukulele students at Castor Valley ES and also a new 8 week Introductory course at Elmdale Public School.  Please visit the OCDSB’s Extra-Curricular Creative Arts program page for more details and registration.

Suzukulele Update

Our last Ukulele group class before the holiday break at SuzukiMusic was last Saturday and I’m so glad to have a few weeks to prepare more material for these kids. They have been consuming everything I bring in at a considerable rate!  (So, I finally just invested in the teacher edition of Sibelius 7 )

It’s certainly a lot of fun teaching these guys. Tuning is a quick process each week as many of them, having been Suzuki students for many years already, have developed a very fine ear for pitch. The range of age is quite wide, at 10 to 17 but their learning levels are fairly even. As I suspected, singing seems to be the biggest challenge so far. Not their ability to sing but their willingness to be heard is more the issue. We’ll just have to keep at it…  Anyway, I’m looking forward to continuing with this pilot project in the new year. 

I’ve put up a few links to the arrangements I’ve made on Sibelius so far on a new page of the blog so check them out.  Feel free to use and share these pieces!

My students and I have been very busy at Castor Valley this fall, preparing some pieces for our first “Open House” of the year, Monday, December 9th at 8am. The group is smaller this year and a combination of Level 1 and 2 students but they’re very enthusiastic learners. I hope many of their friends will be able to come in early and hear them play. We’re currently looking at possibly opening up a new session for beginner ukulele students after the holidays, so stay tuned for that…

CastorValleyUkuleleOpenHouseDec2013 copy

Suzukulele – Ukulele for Suzuki students

Well, another year done! After last night’s portfolio wrap-up webinar session with James Hill and my fellow Level 2 teachers, I have now completed my second year of studying/teaching with JHUI. No stopping now…on to Level 3 at the end of July in Vancouver, for me. I’ve also completed my first full year of teaching the ukulele program at the OCDSB and am really looking forward to continuing with my students and hopefully many new ones in September. But for right now, my summer project is developing the “Suzukulele” senior program for this coming fall at SuzukiMusic.

After successfully bringing in the ukulele to the younger student musicians at SuzukiMusic’s summer camp last year, the idea for offering ukulele as a fun, team-building, skill-building option for senior Suzuki students has been brewing away in my head ever since.  As a one week summer camp enrichment class with the younger students, we mostly focus on singing fun camp songs and strumming together, while making parallels between their main instrument (either violin, viola, flute, guitar or cello) and the ukulele. We can find many things in common with each of these: number of strings, size, clef, shape, materials, etc… and the children realize that being a musician is not limited to the instrument you play. You can use and build your existing musical skills into many different styles and purposes. Suzuki students already have a great natural ear and are used to the group environment so ukulele class is a really fun exploration for them. I’m really looking forward to summer camp again this year.

When it comes to introducing the ukulele to the senior students this fall, building camaraderie between instrument groups and challenging their musicianship skills will be the main focus. We’ll be working on ensemble playing in parts, classical, jazz and folk styles and singing too. Shinichi Suzuki said: “It is necessary to be concerned about the importance of educating a really beautiful human spirit”  What better way than to bring teen spirit together in song? Oh yes, there will be singing.