This past school year, I have been attempting to find an assortment of workshops/presentations for teens. At first I wanted to just do the whole “Adulting 101” thing, which I think is great, but I decided to look around for anything that I thought could be remotely interesting.
Last year I signed up for a 4 week session beginners ukulele class at my town library. It was free for me, which was great AND my local library was able to borrow ukulele’s from other surrounding libraries and we could use them for the month. I had been wanting to try it out and this was an amazing opportunity! I really liked the class – 10 adults and one instructor.
When I mentioned this to my TAB as a possible option for a program, they got really excited. Like, REALLY excited. Apparently half of them own their own ukes and they told me kids in the middle school bring them to school and play in the hallways between classes….who knew? So it just so happens that we have an in-house yoga instructor who also happens to play the ukulele in a band AND owns 10 ukuleles!! (When I say in-house, I mean that she teaches public yoga classes in our large meeting room and instead of paying to use the room, she does 2 free programs for us a month.)
She was totally up for it and we set it up for once a month. She charged me $25 per class. We are in the 4th month and attendance hasn’t been as good as I had hoped -we have 5 regulars that have attended most sessions. I was able to sit in on this month’s and play with the teens and I had a great time! They were really serious about learning and they are excited that they don’t have to pay for the sessions. A couple have their own instruments, but the rest borrow from the instructor’s collection. She’s super laid back and encouraging (probably has something to do with all the yoga) and the teens don’t feel pressured at all. We have just struck up a deal to switch out one of our free yoga programs for a monthly Uke Club session, so now we can keep going over the summer – hopefully getting more teens with school being out – and I don’t even have to pay for it. Sweet deal.
FYI: I started out advertising the program for grades 7-12, mostly because a good portion of my TAB is 7th & 8th grade. We dropped the age because people said their tweens really wanted to do it, but it still didn’t help attendance. However, for the summer session, I am going to re-advertise and keep it “for tweens and teens,” which I do when I don’t really know who I am marketing to.
I have also been toying with the idea of holding 2 or more sessions per month, one with the instructor and the others without her. It’s pretty easy to find ukulele tabs online to popular songs and since we started, I have ordered a few good books on playing the ukulele. Even if it’s just a hangout for teens with something in common, that’s good enough for me. I’ve used this site: https://ukutabs.com/ to print out some songs for the group. Getting books and photocopying their sheet music works well too. I think it seems to help when you have a mix of songs you know/popular ones and simple songs that are easy to learn and help you practice playing and chord transitions. Definitely check out area libraries to see if they have ukulele’s to borrow. I’m actually considering applying for a local cultural council grant in the fall to purchase some for our collection. Tuner’s are easy to find on Amazon – I actually did buy a tuner for myself for a uke I borrowed from a friend. They are only around $10.00. Plus there are tons of YouTube videos you could show or even put on your teen website.
The moral of the story…? I’m not sure exactly, but something along the lines of “It’s OK to try something new,” and also maybe to “explore what people in your community have to offer.” Or “just keep talking to your teens to find out what they are into and go with it!”
And while I still don’t own my own ukulele, I plan to soon! If only to channel my inner Zooey….