I haven’t been writing on the blog much – mostly due to time constraints – but I wanted to touch on the issue of ukulele as a tool for goodness and social connection. The more deeply I dive into the ukulele sphere, the more I see how truly magical it really is.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge advocate for music of all kinds in our lives. Whatever instrument you choose, it can bring a whole host of positive benefits to you and those around you. But I’d like to reflect a bit on some of what I’m seeing with the ukulele.
This is an instrument that has had a wild ride along its history line. From something deeply cultural in its Hawaiian roots (that continues today), to its kooky pop culture adventures over the decades, to becoming so much more in present day. This little four-stringed wonder has been a chameleon, an entertainer, a social connector, a tool for expression, an outlet for creativity, a very wide open door to musical literacy (for kids and grown-ups), and the list goes on. Using Amanda Palmer’s words, it is a wand of thunder. And at the same time, it is a humble friend.
I really believe this instrument can bring forth positive benefits that I have not seen from other instruments at this scale and reach. Just to touch on a few examples of where I’ve personally seen it go:
- Its accessibility has given people the opportunity to learn to make music in adulthood, many who perhaps never thought they would ever be able to create music. A huge mind and heart opener that builds self-esteem and happiness.
- It has been a social connector for people who may not have come together in any other venue. It has enabled them to have a communication tool – the universal language of music – that they can use to relate to others.
- It can go anywhere. Its portability makes it perfect in so many scenarios. Its unassuming and inoffensive nature lets it join (sneak?) in with all kinds of other instruments. It can make friends with most anyone.
- It has been a connector for families. I’ve had parents and kids register for classes together and enjoy the beauty of sharing music, opening dialogue, strengthening family bonds. They’ve often told me they continue making music together as a family at home.
- It’s a healer. I’ve seen this instrument go into hospitals, care centres, and homes of people who are dealing with health challenges. It can help lower heart rates and anxiety, alleviate pain and discomfort, and improve brain activity.
- It is an outlet for expression. I’ve had students of all ages explore the craft of writing with their instrument, helping sort through their life challenges and successes, through the art of songwriting.
- It’s an opportunity to explore music one would never have known or thought about. We can play a classical piece and talk about the format of the canon in early western music. We can thrash out a Ramones song and feel the rush of letting loose on three punk chords. We can learn a swinging ditty from the 1930s and challenge ourselves with the complexity and beauty of jazz chords.
- It builds and invites communities. Its humble and approachable nature, mixed with the happy faces of those who play it, is unique in its ability to lure people to learn. Many people attend ukulele performances and leave thinking “I want to learn to play that!” and go out and buy one. I don’t know many other instruments that have this kind of effect. People might see a concert and be moved and entertained, but they rarely go out and buy the instrument they’ve just seen performing. This happens regularly with ukulele.
- It’s a tool for good mental health. Art and music offer people the chance to escape and find distraction from their busy lives. Ukuleles are a really accessible way to bring this stress-relieving activity into many homes. I’ve had endless people tell me that they look forward to ukulele class/jams as an opportunity to let their stress go and turn their moods around.
I could go on but I will leave it there for now. I would love to hear what you have discovered through this wonderful little instrument. How has it affected your life in big and small ways?