Ukulele Online Course Part of New Music Program for Seniors

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An ambitious new project aims to bring music into the homes of older people while teaching them musical and technological skills.

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The volunteers of the Stirling Musical Instrument Lending Library , or MILL, created Music Link 55, an outreach program for – you guessed it – people aged 55 and over and living in the MILL service area: South and Central Hastings County, eastern Northumberland County and southeastern Peterborough County.

From November 17, teacher Deb Chatreau will be organizing online lessons to play the ukulele. They are aimed at beginners – no experience is necessary. Registrations are capped at 15 students.

Ukuleles and tablets can be borrowed from MILL as part of its regular loan program, but internet service is not included.

“The idea is to be able to reach seniors who are isolated at home and cannot go out, COVID or not. This has always been a problem, ”said Music Link coordinator Elizabeth Slavin, former secretary and senior executive at MILL. She said that it is hoped that at least some of the first students will be in this category.

The loan program costs $ 30 per year – not per month or per item – to borrow one at a time or $ 50 to borrow two. Three items can be borrowed for $ 70 per year. The offerings include a wide variety of instruments and related equipment.

MILL received $ 25,000 New Horizons for Seniors and a portion of the grant will cover instructor fees and the cost of 11 tablets.

The MILL would welcome other donations, such as those to help cover the Internet costs of the elderly, Slavin said.

“There is definitely room for service clubs and the like to get involved.

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Simple lessons

Tweed retired teacher Deb Chatreau said her class aims to ensure fast results using simple methods.

“On the first or second day, we’ll have a song that we can play,” said Chatreau, who taught French and the arts at Madoc Township Public School. She said she played guitar before trying the ukulele around 2010 and hardly ever touches her guitar.

“It’s something that you can learn and learn a few songs quite quickly. It’s user-friendly.

“You can sing and play at the same time. If you see a group of people playing the ukulele, they are all smiling.

“I can play uke in the car while my husband is driving. “

When classes are too technical or complex, she says, they can turn people off.

“What I hope is that we are all here to learn songs and have fun.”

Chatreau teaches a method based on that used by Canadian ukulele artist James Hill, whom she met during a workshop.

“You can learn enough chords very quickly to play a few songs. “

Music opens doors

The ukulele introduced Marjie Olmstead of Trenton to a new world.

At 72, she took her first class five years ago after seeing an advertisement.

Five years later, she plays three types of ukulele, is a member of two ukulele groups, and performs in open-microphone online sessions.

“I don’t go a day without playing the ukulele,” said Olmstead.

She said learning the instrument was not difficult, but practice was essential.

Playing brought her new friends and experiences, she said.

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“If you have more connections to the community, other doors can open,” she said. “You could be invited to other events… You could be more positive in your thinking, with your family and friends… and proud of yourself. “

Olmstead still plays with his first teacher, David Hayes, who along with his wife, Wendy Bellen, leads the Colborne Library Ukelele Band, which is also a group of teachers.

“At one point we had an 87-year-old man in our group and some teenagers,” said Olmstead, who is also part of the Wellington-based County Ukelele Band.

Although experienced as a “moderate gamer,” she said, she will be taking the Music Link course to learn more and is now learning to use her borrowed MILL tablet.

Schedule more workshops

Music Link coordinator Elizabeth Slavin said the ukulele class is one of many projects in the works. MILL and Music Link each produced videos and discussed other audience engagement projects, such as instructional videos or online chants.

Ukulele lessons will be presented through Zoom, the online video conferencing service. Slavin said many older people are already familiar with him, but tech support is available for those who aren’t.

Volunteers to help seniors connect to the course are also needed.

“The students are perfect,” Slavin said, noting that the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board has agreed to count this work against the student quota for volunteer hours.

Following the federal grant, Slavin said, “We also have money for other workshops and technical support.”

While MILL lends instruments to people of all ages, tablets are reserved for the 55+ age group.

“We’re focused on lending to seniors who don’t have a computer or other means to do so so they can musically interact with the community,” Slavin said.

To register for the course, contact her at [email protected], 613-395-0861 or 613-885-1802.

To learn more about the Stirling MILL, visit Stirlingmill.ca or call curator James Reid at 613-661-6183.

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