Although it’s something I’ve known intrinsically for as long as I can remember, it’s only been in recent years that I’ve realized how much music brings people together. Music has the beautiful ability to function as an individual activity or one of social connection.
Last evening was one of those moments when I was taken with the warm and joyful experience of the music-making-in-a-group kind. This one centred around ukuleles, of course, and was part of a celebration of music education (Music Monday), an area that I’m quite passionate about.
It began with the screening of a documentary called The Mighty Uke. This quirky little film touches on the history (including the pop culture history) of our tiny hero: the ‘ukulele. I scanned the room regularly to watch the reactions of those in attendance, both young and old(er). There were smiles, definitely laughs, some nods of recognition and even a few teary moments. All were engaged in the wild and wooly stories of the “jumping flea.”
The film set the stage for what came next: making music. Some folks were members of the Royal City Ukulele Ensemble and were very comfortable playing together. Some were relative newbies but were venturing out to test their musical abilities in a safe environment. Some were folks who perhaps had never touched a ukulele before (goodness!) and experienced their first ukulele jam session.
We had six songs to play — songs that registrants had received in the previous weeks and we had yet to try altogether as “The Mighty Uke Jam Ensemble”. I gave them a quick pep talk and the mandatory “Z Chord is your secret weapon” advice and, as we began to play and sing, the magic really began to happen.
There were smiles. Lots of smiles. There was laughter and at the end of each song, acknowledgement of the success of having made the song sound like a song! A group of 30+ participants, at least half of whom did not know each other before that evening, came together and created music. Just like that. And it was perfectly imperfect.
As we finished, there was a great energy in the room. The joy of having made music together, regardless of age or experience level. We came together in some cases as strangers but we left the evening feeling as though we had all connected in those moments to create something as a group. It reminded me of many things, including the fact that ukuleles should be mandatory at all business meetings as an ice-breaker, creativity booster and stress-reliever… (don’t get me started)
But mostly, it reminded me that although I talk about ukuleles in my every day life and get some snickers and eyerolls from those who haven’t yet experienced them firsthand (i.e. the ‘ukulele dark side), I know in my heart the power of this friendly little instrument:
The quiet introvert
The social connector
The charming hipster
The peace maker
The happiness generator
The little instrument that could. And does.