Earlier this year, George Vallatini, music teacher at Eliot Elementary School, started implementing the use of ukuleles into his music classrooms. This all-grade-level program was created to provide a richer musical experience for every student at Eliot.

The grant request was for 30 soprano ukuleles and a coordinating music stand for storing them when not in use. The soprano ukuleles are the ideal size for children in grades K through 5.

“There are no string instruments like ukuleles and guitars for the elementary students to use. While the guitar is a difficult instrument for young children to play, the easier ukulele brings an entirely new way for our students to experience the music curriculum. Additionally, the current rise in the popularity of the ukulele brings a fresh and exciting dimension to the musical experience of our Eliot school students,” says Vallatini.

The students are using the ukuleles to accompany their singing, like the folk singers Joni Mitchell and Pete Seeger. They are using the instruments to learn about songs and melody and harmony, as well as rhythm and song structure. The students will also use the ukuleles to help them compose their own original music.

“The ukuleles allow me to teach music in a new and inspiring way,” says Vallatini. Traditionally, when the students are asked to sing, they sing either acapella or accompanied by the piano. By incorporating the ukulele into the existing curriculum, students accompany themselves. According to Vallatini, “This allows them to learn about harmony and accompaniment in a practical, hands-on way.”

The program was funded by a grant from the NEF’s Fall 2017 Small Grants cycle.

Click here to see an Eliot Kindergarten class using a few of the ukuleles.