‘Geriatric ukulele players’ share their musical joy by buying instruments for Bay Area schools

Three years ago, 71-year-old Raj Gidwani had no idea what a ukulele was. Currently, he is a Walnut He is an avid participant in the Creek’s Rossmoor Retirement Community Ukulele Club, where he happily sings and strums with his neighbors.

“The only time I sang before was in the shower,” he said.

Gidwani and his fellow club members are a group of self-proclaimed “geriatric ukulele players” who discovered the instrument well into their 70s and 80s, with hundreds, if not thousands, of Bay Area students. I want to convey the joy of music to everyone. They use club dues to raise funds and put hundreds of his four-stringed instruments into the hands of Walnut-His Creek School District elementary school students for delivery to neighboring communities.

They want to share a sense of belonging, accomplishment, and connection with students who have been strumming decades ago.

“First and foremost, we want them to experience the joy of playing the ukulele. There is so much to be gained from playing the ukulele.

Gene Howard sings and plays the ukulele at the Rossmoor Retirement Community.

Santiago Mejia / Chronicle

The first order of 90 ukuleles went out in late November through Concord’s Rockin’ Lobby music store and are being sold to school districts at cost or just under $30 each.

online: For more information on the program, please visit gofundme.com/f/provide-ukuleles-to-children.

All 4th and 5th graders at Walnut Creek schools learn the ukulele as part of each site’s weekly music program, said Connie McCurry, the district’s director of wellness, extended learning and community engagement.

“We ended up singing and dancing at a cabinet meeting,” McCurry said when he received an email from the club about the donation.

“We got an email response literally within minutes,” said District Superintendent Marie Morgan. “I thought this was such a cool experience. That’s why magic happens at school.”

The same magic happens every week in the Rossmoor conference room. There, his 120 members of his ukulele club gather to play and sing together. Often, John practices from his Denver “Take Me Home, Country Road” for his next performance. To Hawaiian classics and songs you sang as a child, such as “This Land Is Your Land.”

“They say if you learn three chords, you can play 100 songs,” said 81-year-old Gene Howard.

Many of the members had never played an instrument before. Some are mostly housebound, but he visits once a week, the 77-year-old said, Herb Salomon.

That also applies to children. Perhaps some children find reason to come to school because of music.

“They learn together. They learn to read music. They learn to be part of a group,” he said. And the ukulele is “a natural instrument. It’s an inexpensive instrument and easy to learn. They feel a sense of accomplishment.”

The donation comes as Proposition 28 passed in November and a new commitment to music education is taking place across California. 64% of voters want the state to put an additional $1 billion into arts and music education, with much of the money earmarked to pay for education. teacher.

Increasing the number of arts and music teachers in the state will take time and will require funding for another 15,000 or so. But now that there is a stable source of funding, those interested in the profession will find work in the near future, said Ann Fennell, executive committee member of the California Association of Music Educators.

The funding comes in an effort to re-engage students after the pandemic. Many children still suffer the emotional and academic costs from months of distance learning and social isolation. did not receive a musical education for many years.

Extensive research has shown that children who study music perform better and have higher attendance. Music education can also help reduce depression, promote problem solving, and develop teamwork skills.

“Students want to go to school because they want to play music,” she said. “Once a child starts making music, it becomes part of their identity. No one can take it away.”

More than 100 ukulele players from the Walnut Creek retirement community are raising money to buy ukuleles for Bay Area elementary schools.

More than 100 ukulele players from the Walnut Creek retirement community are raising money to buy ukuleles for Bay Area elementary schools.

Santiago Mejia / Chronicle

The Rossmoor resident’s donation of ukuleles offers students more than playing instruments, she said.

“The people of Rossmoor, they’re in their community and they’re leaving it better than they found it,” she said. It’s not about providing an instrument, but what does this tell you about how the community views you as a person?”

As a bonus, ukuleles are easy to carry around and accessible to many people, she said. “It’s something anyone can do.”

This isn’t the first time the Rossmoor Ukulele Club has donated an instrument. They sent 100 of his ukuleles to Paradise after devastating wildfires destroyed the community and a local school.

According to Art Salzfass, who helped organize the effort, they hope to raise enough money to provide instruments to students in the Mount Diablo School District and beyond.

Club members hope to visit local schools and perform with students in the near future. It’s not about being a music instructor, it’s about being an avid audience and music education cheerleader.

“We will be grandparents,” he said. “If someone needs us, we’ll be there.”

Jill Tucker is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: jtucker@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @jilltucker

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *