Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Apply Learning From Ukulele Yoda I Can!

Titanic Struggle #1: Maggies Defending Home

Maggie. RIP.
Ukestra this morning was witness to a titanic struggle. We are blessed to be in the beer garden at the local club, once a week, and the bushland across the carpark is home to beautiful animals, kangaroos and birds alike. Butcherbirds, koels, tawnies, magpies et al. Because of a recent adoption (and subsequent death), I have a renewed fondness for maggies. But clearly magpies have no fondness for goannas.

The goanna was on a mission. Eat a baby magpie from a nest on high. The troops were screechingly warbled in from all neighbouring territories, and despite the best snapping efforts of maybe a dozen hysterically community-minded maggies, the goanna retrieved its lunch.

The classic Tawny Frogmouth pose: You can't see me! I'm a tree!

Titanic Struggle #2: Student Retention

In the beer garden I had an equally titanic struggle. Prevent someone giving up in disappointment.

It's too hard! I don't understand what you mean by 'riffs', they opined.

All this time, and I didn't know that this was their aspiration, and with what they struggled. If they had said nothing, then I would be none the wiser when the day came that they were inexplicably 'no longer there' .

But this word came at just the right time - before I had planned the class (let's face it, I rarely plan). And so, in 15 seconds, I had formulated a plan of attack to retain and teach. To take the teachable moment by the horns.

No! Don't distract the class on my problems! They plead.

There are no silly questions. I comforted. If you are asking about this, others are bound to be. Some could do with the revision.

And so the pentatonic and My Girl came into the class plan at the last moment. And it worked a treat. Tentative learner retrieved. Students revised. Loose ends gathered. Until the next time.

Wisdom of the 30-Something Year Old

Learned from Ukulele Yoda in these last two months, one thing I have. This, it is.

A good teacher, what makes. hmmmm? ... the Wise One a class full of teachers ask.

A cascade of advice emanated from the Gathered Padawans. Be Observant! Be Well Resourced! Be Skilled! Know Your Scales! And on...

Yes.Said He ...but...this the nub of the good teacher be.

Be Prepared for Anything.

Good one Oh Wise One. Good. One.

And no. There is no good connection back to the magpie story. That's it. End of story.

Except - isn't that a beautiful tree? --- >

The Tree of Yoda

Monday, September 26, 2016

I'll have a Cabin and a Wombat Thank-you - Rosewood Folk Music Camp 2016

Picture this...arriving at Folk Music Camp and finding your assumed 'shared cabin' with unknown others is actually just for you two, and it's got an ensuite to boot. On the strength of this alone, I consider my 2016 teacher experience at Rosewood Folk Music Camp a rampant success.

Listen to a rehearsal whilst you read.

Add to that a wombat and 160 ukulele players and it was a crazily good weekend. I've written about Victoria's folk music camps before but this was a new high.

Rosewood is September-tucked in a valley of the Strathbogie Ranges (Central Victoria) at Charnwood Bush Camp (an old private school camp with various camp-type things – a zip line, canoes, wildflowers, kangaroos and a tame wombat).

Intermediate class
We were hired as the 2016 ukulele tutors, and for us it is a pilgrimage back to the Australian heartland of community music. Despite all of the competing and fascinating alternatives to our workshop (Instant Band, Youth Band, Whistle, Fiddle, Ensemble), our classes attracted record numbers.

Our first programmed session was 'intermediate ukulele'. That was crowded out in a small tent with 60 people. We complained to each other that the committee had programmed our venue in error. The small tent couldn't contain the 60 intermediates, and we were pretty sure that putting us in the large marquee for a beginners session was surely overkill. We couldn't get more than 60.
Beginners class, including tanbark covering some vomit.
100 came to the beginners session. Ouch.

What we know we do well is to get beginners and intermediates to a level where they can mutually support each other in an engaging and uplifting performance. We clearly achieved that, after a total of only two sessions each. We came together in a full-throated, harmonised uke-riff driven, strum-supported inclusive singalong.

But it is the first time ever that we have included a wombat in our performance. We highly recommend it, although they are rather short.

Every Band Needs a Wombat

The wombat had been hanging around camp all weekend. Chasing children (really just trying to attach to a new mother) and seeking food. At the evening concert it thought it would like to be one of the 300+ people crammed into the marquee for Sunday night's climax. Weaving between chairs, tripping people up, and occasionally making unauthorised crossings of the stage.

In the corner of the marquee a space had been allocated as a crashpad for small children to snuggle up in the cold in their sleeping bags. At one stage a parent was seen hauling said wombat out to an appropriate bush or dugout, but it just came rushing back into the warmth and fervour. Understandably what sane wombat wouldn't prefer sharing a toasty sleeping bag with a small child on a cold spring evening.

It came our turn to perform two songs, with 160 ish people. We told most of them to stay in the audience, and just to perform from there, but we got a few key players, riffers, singers and children (who wanted their turn in the sun) up on stage. It was mayhem, crowded, and glorious.

Our performance ended and we milled our way off stage, except for one teenager who remained reluctant to get up from his position next to a foldback speaker. The wombat had crawled into his lap and fallen asleep, an ukulele perched in front, strumming or riffing for the performance, surrounded by a wall of (apparently comforting) sound.

Comes a time when we have to leave our mumma

Jane with a wombat
Difficult to pack with a wombat
Next morning everyone packs and leaves. I went down to reception to finalise things with the committee and they were packing up, complaining that the little rascal was still around. I shunted him/her outside, providing a rather certain foot in the bum to get outside. Not hurtfully, just insistently. They did. But then a new problem began.

Are you my new Dad/Mum/Foodsource? The wombat galloped up with me to our bunkhouse, like a good dog at heel, into the cabin and the delighted arms of Jane, other adults and children.

This never happened at Lark. But this is Australia, not the USA. Wombats, not human-maiming bears.

What a great weekend.