value of the arts

All posts tagged value of the arts

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?



There are moments in our days that are inextricably linked to music. The soundtrack of our lives, if you will. Music can bring back memories, trigger emotions, give us strength, motivate us, calm us, and help us through. music gives soul quote

Recently, the Royal City Ukulele Ensemble — an adult ukulele group that I run — had a powerful experience through music. For the last two years, our weekly classes have taken place in a wonderful retirement and assisted care facility. Residents are welcome to listen to us work through our technique and material each week and every few months we put on a more formal performance for those residents.

We have come to find happiness not only in our own music-making each week but in watching the effects of our music on those residents who might sit for a while and listen, who come bopping down the hall to our more upbeat tunes, or who come religiously and listen to our entire 2 hour class each week.

It is one of those residents who allowed us the opportunity to be a part of something extra special this summer. I will leave you with the link to an article that was written about this story in the retirement community’s newsletter, the Village Voice. May your days be filled with the magic and power of music.



kid piano handsI’ve written before about the importance of making time for arts/music as an adult but this time I want to speak specifically to music-making for children and youth.

As parents, we know the options for our kids’ extra-curricular programmes are vast and varied. We make decisions on those options based on a similarly wide range of reasons: our child shows an interest; their friends are doing it; we want them to learn or experience something; it fits into our schedule; it fits into our family budget; and the list goes on. All kinds of activities are fighting for our parental dollars and time. We all have a lot on our plates.

Unfortunately for many, music ends up being low on the list. It’s important that our kids get exercise, team-building, coordination skills, etc. But what I am seeing these days are many children and young people growing up with a distinct lack of social awareness and empathy, an inability to focus on anything that is not on a screen, and at the most basic level, an outlet for those crazy emotions that we all have to learn to control as we grow into adults.

Music in particular sparks a magical mixture of benefits that research has shown us over and over: brain and body benefits, emotional and social benefits. This is a recipe that no other activity can provide in the same way.

It’s a recipe missing from too many young lives these days.1397536_10153471368245360_842905776_o

We’re championing ‘creativity’ as a skill that is going to be near the top of every recruiter’s wish list in the near future. It already is at the top of many. But are our children getting the opportunity to explore real, tactile creativity? I mean, aside from Minecraft, Garageband and choosing cool filters on their Instagram pics? And what about emotional and social health?

Here are just a few of the things music and the arts can help develop in our kids:



Spatial acuity

Non-verbal communication


Healthy risk-taking

Ability to receive constructive feedback

Collaborative skills

Improved memory

Problem-solving abilities




I don’t deny the importance of sports in the lives of kids. Heck, my own kids definitely have their fair share on the go. But just as we aim to give our kids healthy meals that will keep their bodies strong and growing, we should be ensuring their ‘brain and soul plates’ are just as balanced. Let’s give our kids the opportunity to be truly healthy, inside and out. Let’s keep music and the arts on the menu.