Ukulele In Education
What Ukuleles To Use
There are a number of options to look at when considering which ukuleles to purchase for your school. Please, do your research before jumping in and spending money.
Budget (or lack of it) is probably going to be any music teacher's first consideration, as well as where purchases can be made (often restricted for schools) and what size ukuleles to buy.
At this point, I am not going to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't be buying as every school / music department / music teacher is different and I certainly am no expert and don't have any connections to a music retail business. I am just going to inform you what I have done and what I consider now works for us.
What Size Ukuleles?
If you are not sure about the different sizes of uke, check out the FAQ page for more information.
The first ukuleles we bought were coloured sopranos, starting with Mahola ukes and then Octopus ukuleles.
Personally I prefer the Octopus brand, they are playable, come in funky colours, have a usable case and are very reasonably priced (under £25). We ended up with over 20 soprano ukes and had no real issues with pupils (mainly aged 11 to 14) playing them.
About a year into the ukulele club we got an opportunity to apply for funding (more info below) and with our application a success I had to decide how to spend the money. My original intention was to continue buying soprano ukuleles but after research made the decision to invest in concert ukuleles as the bulk of our purchases. There is generally a big increase in price and to justify the size over quantity I was still looking for a reasonably priced instrument. After lots more research and buying a few to check on quality, we bought over 50 Kmise Zebrawood concert ukuleles. I was lucky that my school allowed me to buy directly from the Chinese distributor which meant the prices were very reasonable (not much more than the sopranos). Yes, there are much better quality ukuleles to buy, but for school purposes, these are laminated wood and fairly destruction proof and have so far proved a great buy.
- Pros - reasonably priced, some are playable, bright colours (kids really do love this), easy to purchase for schools, can be bought in educational packs, easier to play by younger children, often includes a case
- Cons - some are not playable, they can be regarded as "a toy", older pupils and adults may struggle with the smaller size
- Pros - generally a better quality instrument, easier to play for older children and adults, regarded more as "serious instrument"
- Cons - more expensive, more difficult to purchase in bulk, rarely incudes case
If I was to go through the process again, I would definitely go for concert ukuleles in a secondary school if the budget was available and probably soprano ukuleles for a primary school.
We also have a few tenor ukes, a couple of baritones and a bass ukulele to give a more varied sound to the club and give pupils a chance to try new things.
Funding Your Ukuleles
As previously mentioned, we started small with just 8 instruments - total £160. We managed to raise money for more instruments by holding raffles and by busking as a group in local events. This got us to about 20 ukuleles in the first year.
Our main funding success was by applying for the "Tesco Bags of Help" scheme which involved the collection of tokens in our local Tesco store. We got the whole school involved and managed to secure the top grant of £4000! This has not only enabled us to buy the ukuleles and sound equipment for the club but to buy enough instruments to teach whole classes.