News & Events

Making music with Ukuleles and Friends…


Something for everyone…and fun from day one

Students at École Qayqayt Elementary School are making music with 30 ukuleles and a whole group of after-school friends thanks to a new program supported by local community organizations.

A $3,000 music grant coordinated through the United Way of the Lower Mainland, TD Canada Trust in New Westminster, Arts Council of New Westminster, and Neil Douglas Guitar Shop  has helped make the ukulele after-school program happen at Qayqayt school. The grant is also helping fund an after-school drumming program at École Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary school.

UKULele girls 640District community schools coordinator Rick Bloudell said the ukulele program has drawn in a number of students who previously had not been enrolled in Community School programs.

“One of my goals as a coordinator is to take a ‘something for everyone’ approach and make sure that students have a wide variety of high-quality programs to choose from,” said Bloudell. “The ukulele program has been the ideal fit.”

Veteran guitar teacher Alexis Nery, of the Neal Douglas Guitar Shop, is a teaching the program, bringing 15-years of experience teaching beginners from 6 to 60-years-old.

Students in École Qayqayt’s school music program love the instrument.  Grade 5 student Piper reported that the ukulele is “kinda like a miniature guitar with less strings.” She says learning the instrument is “good for student’s minds – they have to remember the notes and songs.”   Lyra, also grade 5, has her own ukulele – “it’s blue and straight from Hawaii. It’s so fun that I can play different notes. They are fun and easy to learn.”

Music as key in a child’s education…

École Qayqayt music education teacher Allison Penner said ukuleles are not only light, small, and easy to play songs with only a few chords, they also help contribute to a child’s whole education.

Penner said research shows early music education more than any other subject is beneficial to a young child’s whole development academically, socially, emotionally and physically. Through music, children learn melody, harmony, rhythm, form, tempo, dynamics, and tone. Skills are cross-curricular and include science, social studies, art, dance, math, languages.

“My students get a chance to share their strengths, engage with others and become more confident,” said Penner. “These skills transfer to all areas of their lives. Music education allows students to work together in creating something unique.”

Penner said some of her school classes have also been able to enjoy the after-school program ukuleles and “already I can see the excitement in the students. For most, it’s a new stringed instrument for them for sure. That makes it extra exciting!”

UKULELE group 640

Drumming for social skills – and for math, poetry and meditation!

At École Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary School, the drums are being incorporated in teacher Emilie Prunier’s club for grade 4/5 students. They’re learning hand-drumming techniques and both traditional and non-traditional patterns. They are also playing games to develop collaboration, leadership, social-emotional skills and listening skills.

“It’s been very successful,” said Prunier, an Early French Immersion teacher.

In her school classes she actually incorporates drumming in subjects like math to teach concepts such as fractions, patterns, multiples.

“Right now we are doing some poetry and students love to incorporate some drumming in their interpretations. We have also been doing an Aboriginal play and we incorporated traditional Aboriginal songs and drumming.”

“When the weather is bad, it’s often that I have students come to my classroom at recess to jam and create their own patterns. They’re getting very good and very creative!”

New Westminster Schools offers an array of active and engaging after school programs for children and youth through its Community Schools programs, supported by partnerships in the community. The music grant through the three New Westminster branches of TD Canada Trust is an expression of TD”s belief that “one of our best investments we can make is to ensure that children and youth have access to arts, music and culture in their communities.”

“This is a great example of the relationships Community Schools are grateful for,” said Bloudell.