Uke Lab debuts Tuesday, March 5 with a Beginner & Intermediate class from 7-8 p.m., and an Intermediate & Advanced class from 8-9 p.m. at our Yale Avenue location. During each four week session all students will work on the same two songs. On the fourth and final week, the classes come together to share what they’ve learned, sharpen their group playing skills, and to strengthen a sense of community.
A new four week session with two new songs will begin the following week.
“Uke Lab is an experiment I’ve been thinking about for a few years now,” John told us. “I’ve been really looking for a way for my group students to have a consistent place to come for building skills, a consistent place for learning new repertoire, and also having a little more of a social element than private education can provide.”
“The idea behind Uke Lab is really trying to create differentiated material, different monthly content that we’re using to develop skills in different levels,” he explained further. “Then the last week of the month we’re trying to get everybody together, all of the levels, to learn from each other, play music together, have fun together, and try to play those pieces in more of an ensemble format.”
“Uke Lab will be unique in that we’ll be doing four week sessions as opposed to the usual eight weeks that we do here at Swallow Hill,” Casey added. “This really allows for students to work out two pieces per session and really getting strong with those and on the fourth week getting together as one big group and playing all the sections.
The fluidity of Uke Lab intrigues John and Casey, who hope students will move among the levels depending on the musical selections, and what skills they really want to focus on and hone.
“One thing that’s tricky for a lot of students,” Casey continued, “is knowing what level of ukulele player they are – am I a beginner, am I intermediate, or am I advanced?”
To help them navigate this, Uke Lab’s structure encourages students to float among the levels as they see fit. John and Casey will be on hand to help them through the process.
In a demonstration using Bach’s “Minuet in G,” John and Casey shared how the classes might work at each level. The beginner level class might focus on open chords or simple melodies. Intermediate students will focus on things like solidifying their melody lines and chording to prepare them for next steps as a potential advanced player.
For the advanced students, chord melody techniques will be introduced, placing melody phrases within the chords. John and Casey want all students, whatever their level, to be challenged and engaged, and to feel like they are progressing.
John and Casey also want to emphasize the community component of Uke Lab.
“Uke Lab would be appealing especially to students who are looking for more community-oriented playing,” Casey explained. This includes players who are looking to encounter people of different skill levels and learning how to navigate playing within a group setting with some organization behind it.
“As an instructor I’m always looking for opportunities for students to be able to improve their musicianship skills,” John said, “which I think are completely different than the actual technical abilities on the instrument.”
The skills fostered by the community aspect of Uke Lab include playing in different settings, finding your place in the arrangement as others play, and developing listening skills.
We look forward to seeing you at Uke Lab and at Swallow Hill!