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Kids Share Passion for Music in Ukelele Club

Zahra learns to play the ukelele from Dr. Amy Wooley, a music instructor at Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, Ohio.

Do you think learning how to play a musical instrument is intimidating? If so, the ukulele is a fun, beginner-friendly option. The small, four-stringed guitar was popularized in Hawaii.

Dr. Amy Wooley, a music instructor at Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, Ohio, describes learning how to play the ukelele as a “gateway” to other musical pursuits. Two years ago, she started a ukulele club at Beck. I’m the student director.

Wooley’s goal was to teach ukulele to a group and establish a sense of community. “Ukulele club is a class but also a club,” she said. “It’s a social gathering of people learning to play ukulele together.”

Wooley is an ethnomusicologist. That means she studies how music reflects cultures and societies. She got the idea for a ukelele club after learning about a unique approach in the United Kingdom. Many towns in England form their own ukulele clubs to bring their communities together. The Beck Center club currently consists of children and young teens.


Zahra is student director of the Beck ukelele club, where teamwork is emphasized. 


Wooley’s teaching often requires teamwork. “I ask ‘OK, who’s struggling? Raise your hand,’” she explained. She then asks everyone who isn’t struggling to raise their hands. Those students find someone in the opposite group to help, and they work together.

“That’s why it’s called a ‘club’ and not a ‘class,’” Wooley said. “The learning doesn’t come just from me. It comes from the club. We’re all in this together.”

The Beck ukulele club has helped members advance from the beginner level to playing solos. Some students can now play complex strumming patterns. 


“The ukelele is a gateway and a destination all in one,” Wooley told Zahra. 


Another benefit of learning ukulele is that it can be a more affordable way to learn a string instrument. “The ukulele is a gateway and a destination all in one,” Wooley said. “It can play music all on its own and sound satisfying, but it can also lead you to playing guitar. I now have several guitar players who started out on ukulele.” 

As a result of hard work and practice, the ukulele club has been asked to perform at local events and gigs. “When we perform, we’re still focused on each other,” Wooley said. “And I love that we get to share what we learn with other people.”



Photos courtesy of the author