What a boring title - oh well.
Things have grown great in the last few months.
The Ukastle Ukestra is reaching new heights (up to 35 people one evening), and the feel is changing to something more raucous. But it has always had the seeds of raucousness. LakeMacUkestra is more staid, and fluctuating in numbers. 9 last week, something like 18 this week.
And the Bay (Tomaree Ukestra) is increasing, incrementally. 2 one week, 7 last week. 7 is good! It is most pleasant sitting outside at the Fingal Bay Sports Club, rain or shine. The cuckoos are going off in the bush around, kangaroos feed on the lawn. Ukuleles strum. V. pleasant. My drink of choice is ginger beer. And there are free peanuts.
I am now bolting off from the Tomaree Ukestra to head to Bobs Farm Public School. Student population = 40. I have a quarter of the students doing uke. My first school!!!! This is vital for my income sustainability. NEIS ends in February and I need to have a large enough and diverse enough income to be sustainable.
It is so great to be working with kids. I miss having my own kids (who have largely grown up and live far away) so I am enjoying that aspect of it. I am looking forward to the first performances. A few people advised me to only work with Grades 3-6, as younger are too difficult. But I am prepared to give that a go at the moment, and I think I have a few Grade 1s & 2s. It was funny, because the 'primary' school kids said wryly 'are you teaching the little kids? Good luck with that!'. Bobs Farm is a lovely school, like something up the north coast, set amidst palms and mosquitos. Address - Marsh Road.
On Wednesday I started at Hamilton Public, an inner city school in Newcastle, with an ethnically diverse population. David Jack is the Principal there and he is a renowned innovator. The Uke is part of his grand plan, and my suggestions appealed to him instantly.
It has been an interesting process trying to drum up schools. David was the first to go 'yes! I want that for my school!'. Megan (Bobs Farm Principal) did the same. An email did the trick and I have now got it down to 'you will either like this idea or not, and you will have room or not, please just reply quickly and we can talk if you are interested'. I really dislike it when people say they will get back to you, and they don't. But it is very reassuring when people do get back and say 'not today' or, 'I have a headache', or, 'our program is full'. At least I then know. I am pretty sure I will have a full board of calls of schools next year.
The Ukastle Ukestra have been accepted to play down at the Melbourne Ukulele Festival in February - this will be our first major outing away from Newcastle. And a whole bunch of people are performing at Roy Sakuma's Hawaii Ukulele Festival in July. I am yet to decide whether I can afford that! It's hard keeping up with the well heeled retirees!!!!
Let's not forget Maitland. I am enjoying all my Ukestras, with Maitland no exception. It is held at the Grand Junction Hotel and Liss, the publican, is one of my main participants. Her and Ben have cultivated a wonderful musical culture at this pub and hence the ukestra participants are very well schooled in alternative music (folky / country sort of inflections). The numbers there will grow, I am sure.
We have decided to have our Hunter Christmas Uke Party up there, where people will be catching a train to the pub from Newcastle - the Uke Train!!!