FIFTH-GRADERS TRY out the ukulele for the first time. Pictured are, front row, from left, Aaliyah Curi, Thania Munoz, Jaycee Wood, Joseph Moldenhauer; second row, Xavier Arriaga, Erik Ocampo, Savannah Hageman, Christian Taylor, Jozy Pick; third row, Tiffany Ferguson, Brianna Dykstra, Marco Sesma, Robert Manthei, Hayden Durovy-Meeker, Logan Sann; back row, Nathan Vande brink, Kendra Koseck, Landon Patzlaff, Jordan Perkins and Grant Faust.	         Ian Stepleton photo
FIFTH-GRADERS TRY out the ukulele for the first time. Pictured are, front row, from left, Aaliyah Curi, Thania Munoz, Jaycee Wood, Joseph Moldenhauer; second row, Xavier Arriaga, Erik Ocampo, Savannah Hageman, Christian Taylor, Jozy Pick; third row, Tiffany Ferguson, Brianna Dykstra, Marco Sesma, Robert Manthei, Hayden Durovy-Meeker, Logan Sann; back row, Nathan Vande brink, Kendra Koseck, Landon Patzlaff, Jordan Perkins and Grant Faust. Ian Stepleton photo

     WHEN YOU THINK OF  elementary-school music performances, you probably envision some of the old standbys: xylophones and recorders.

     Visit Christina Muenchow’s new classroom at Murray Park/Quest Elementary School, and you can find them there too.

     But with a little help from the community, now you can also discover a bit of the tropics to brighten dreary winter days:

     Ukuleles.

     With a grant from the Webster Foundation last month, Muenchow was able to purchase 30 of these Hawaiian favorites — enough to outfit an entire classroom.

    “As a music teacher, I include a variety of musical experiences in hopes to reach and spark a musical interest in every student,” she said. “Ukulele instruction is another tool to teach the students to be literate music readers and performers.  I will include ukulele instruction in hopes to inspire every student to desire more musical knowledge.”

     THE UKULELE MIGHT seem like an obscure choice for contemporary students. Yet, because they’ve been embraced by some latter-day musicians, the ukulele is enjoying a renaissance.

     Chat with these students and you discover they’re well acquainted with the small, four-stringed music-maker.

     “[I saw one] on ‘America’s Got Talent,’” fifth-grader Allie Stahira said, adding that “Yes, I am” excited to try it out now, too.”

     That’s where Tiffany Ferguson saw it as well.

     “On ‘America’s Got Talent,’ I’ve seen a girl use one, and I’d like to use one because I’ve already used one at my aunt’s house,” she said. “... She bought one for my cousins. She knew how to play a guitar [already]. I want to play a Beethoven song on it, but just with a higher pitch.” ...

     To read the entire column, see the March 8, 2018 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.