Before we make the ukes with the kids, we thought a couple of “test” ukes would be a good idea. The above picture is my third attempt at epoxying the neck of the ukulele to the body. After 24 hours of curing the epoxy was still gooey and I could easily peel the neck off of the body. BLAST!
After exchanging emails and texts and two visits to the Home Depot, I came to the conclusion that the only possible error could be in the mixing of the epoxy. Chuck at the Home Depot was very helpful at getting all the gooey epoxy off for me and also in educating me about epoxy. Epoxy or polyepoxide comes in a syringe with two separate compartments that contain a resin and a hardener. When you push the plunger and the resin and hardener come out you only have a limited amount of time to fiddle around before it sets. Each epoxy is different and the box usually denotes how much time you will have.
As I have learned, ratios are super important. Making sure that you have the same amount of resin as hardener and that the two are well mixed is paramount. Just a little too much of one or the other will prevent the epoxy from hardening and cause you a considerable amount of grief.
What I have learned from my three failed epoxy experiments and eventual victory on my fourth try:
For me, the fourth time was the charm. I did it! I’m happy we are testing things out first. Re-epoxying 1 ukulele 4 times is an inconvenience, re-epoxying 300 ukuleles 4 times would be a disaster—- fixable but a disaster nonetheless. So, step one (epoxying the neck to the body) is done. Tomorrow we will glue the fingerboard onto the neck, hopefully the wood glue will behave.
Songwriting is an extremely new venture for many of my students, and for me as well. Although I have journal upon journal with a wide variety of poetry, stories, angsty prose and would be lyrics I have never written a song on my own, or really even ventured to do so. Any music I have written has been required of me for a class.
The thought of writing something bad has paralyzed me—until now. A couple of weeks ago I spent a fun night with some friends writing a song of “epic” proportions. It was terrible/awesome/funny/lame and I loved it. So I got over my fear and I am embracing my absolute lack of experience and experiencing songwriting with my ukulele club.
My students and I began by listening to a song written by students of a friend and fellow music educator, Caitlin McGovern. I worried the kids would be overly critical and/or not give the song a chance, but they loved it, we all did. It was catchy and it stuck with us. We even figured out how to play it on our ukes! You can check it out here as well as an article that Caitlin wrote for Leading Notes.
Today we finally made our first foray in songwriting on our own. After some brainstorming we concluded that we would write about cupcakes, ukulele, and a panda with a mohawk. We named him Carl and quickly found, very little rhymes with Carl. It’s certainly a work in process and many updates are soon to follow, but here is what we have so far lyrically:
I was walkin’ down the street, playin’ my uke to the beat
Then I stopped and I stared at a panda with crazy hair
I gave him a fry, cuz he looked like he was gonna die
And he repaid the favor with something I would surely savor
Sprinkles and Frosting
Delicious, Yummy Cake
He made me a treat using a nifty Easy Bake….
We have the rest of the chord structure figured out, we just ran out of time after school. There were moments of frustration and disagreement in the composition process, but in the end we were all pleased with the outcome, much more than any of us would have predicted mid-process.
It’s a silly song, but it IS a song nonetheless, written by us. Going through the process of writing lyrics, deciding on a chord structure and melody was rewarding. We all left the classroom smiling and humming our OWN tune.
The ukulele club is built upon a participatory music making model (based largely on the influences of Thomas Turino and his book, Music As Social Life and Matthew Thibeault and his Homebrew Ukulele Union). We approached our songwriting similarly— with everyone participating in whatever capacity they wanted and with an openness to new ideas and experiences.
Keep posted and hopefully we’ll have a rough recording of our first song to post soon!
Just when you think you have got it all figured out, without fail, something will come along that will challenge and quite possibly change what you KNOW to be true. This past summer I entered my second summer as a graduate student at the University of Illinois. I was prepared for business as usual while I juggled my course load and my job as a camp counselor. I had registered for classes that interested me but were ultimately selected to help me fulfill the requirements of my degree program. The courses, “The General Music Program” and “Genre Studies in Musicology” seemed innocuous enough. Within a week of reading, discussion and interactions in class, I was aware that these classes would teach me much more than what their syllabi detailed.
Although I have been playing music for the better part of the last 2 decades and derived great joy from doing so, I have also felt a fair amount of anxiety and pressure. While I love playing Mozart Horn Concerti, I also hate it. I’m proud of the work I have done to execute runs, lip trills and other technical feats but they are the product of time spent alone in a practice room. I’ve played in bands, orchestras and quintets but I have never felt what I felt this summer, singing and playing ukulele with my friends. I had never played the ukulele and I was less than stellar in the beginning, but I LOVED it. There was something so nice about singing and playing the music I listen to every day. Teaching orchestra and playing in ensembles I developed this persona that listened to a lot of Pop, Rock, Country, Rap and Hip-Hop at home but only “serious” music at school. Occasionally I listen to some Holst or Hildegard Von Bingen for fun (who doesn’t?!), but the majority of what I listen to is not classical music and by extension of a certain frame of mind within the music community, not worthy or valuable. I was living a double life and it needed to stop.
When you love something so much, you talk about it, you can’t contain it. If you find something that you think is the greatest thing in the world, what teenager is quiet? There are none.~ Megan Jasper, Sub Pop Records