Last July, I rode the train to Vancouver BC with some skepticism but mostly curiosity about this guy from Canada I’d heard about – James Hill was apparently convincing schools all over the world to teach music literacy with the ukulele. Hmm, I thought. Interesting …
Being the folkie that I am, I had spent much of my music teaching emphasizing to students that you don’t have to know how to read music to make music or to understand how it works. And yet, I had students who were eager to learn music and I had to admit the fact that I was at a bit of a loss as to how to go about teaching them.
While I am still a folkie at heart and I still believe that there is plenty to learn and enjoy in music that does not require music reading, I have really enjoyed working with James’ program – the James Hill Ukulele Initiative (affectionately called “JHUI”)- and the second year of training I attended in Vancouver BC this month was no exception.
Having completed an exam on Book 1 (the green book) of the 3-book curriculum, I was excited to dive into Book 2 (the red book) to learn some new music and concepts. I have to tell you … what a leap! The repertoire in this book makes a huge leap into a variety of world and classical music that had me humming all week. I can’t wait to share these pieces with you Ensemblers out there!
The other thing I was inspired by were some of the examples I saw – mostly modeled by James – of leading a large ensemble of mixed level players, sometimes with, sometimes without music. (My personal favorite was an arrangement of the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey !!) When I return from maternity leave, one of my first new projects will definitely be more workshops oriented toward this idea of bringing lots of uke players together to tackle one particular piece for a chunk of time and just have fun challenging ourselves and being impressed with ourselves too!
I’ve included some photos below, including some evening nature walks around different parts of Vancouver. We were spoiled with great weather, which I was not about to take for granted!