Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ukes Needed for Geoff Davis's New School

My very first post on Ukulelia (15 years ago!) was about the Key Strummers, a delightful Hoosier Hotshots-style kids' band put together and led by Indiana teacher Geoff Davis.

Geoff's at a new school this year, and is looking to re-create the kind of amazing program he had with the Key Strummers. If you have an extra ukulele laying around (and, frankly, who doesn't?), please consider sending it to Geoff for his students.

Here's Geoff initial plea, reposted with his permission from Facebook:
Way back in 1999 I began teaching at Indianapolis’ most progressive school, the Key Learning Community. My favorite part of the program was “Pods” — an opportunity for teachers to design an enrichment class focused on one of their passions.
My Pod Class was to be jazz band. I’d been playing with Indianapolis Dixieland bands and wanted to give kids an opportunity to learn to improvise and play traditional jazz. When my students appeared at the door I knew that the plan had to change. My students were all 10 yrs old and younger and had almost no experience playing an instrument.
It didn’t take long for me to change the plan. My first instrument had been the ukulele. I knew that, with the uke, I could teach these kids the basics of rhythm and chord changes.
We had no budget and no ukuleles. I went to the — very young — internet for start-up resources. There was no Donors Choose — no Facebook or Instagram. I went to the, then, center of the ukulele universe -
We began by passing one ukulele — my first uke — around a circle while each student played a chord or two. Soon ukes trickled in. Two came from California and a pair from Hawaii. By Thanksgiving we had an instrument for every student. We played “Five Foot Two” for a school program and the Key Strummers were born.
The rest of the story is the makings of ukulele legend. We became the Governor’s favorite band. We opened the State Fair — for years — playing the National Anthem on ukulele. We travelled to San Antonio and Louisville and all over Indiana. There was no audience we didn’t play for — including a spot on A Prairie Home Companion. It was a great ride! We even hosted the (Original) MidWest UkeFest and headlined James Hill, Jake Shimabukuro, Lyle Ritz, Bryan Tolentino and many others.
Times changed, schools changed, education policy changed and the Key Strummers became unsustainable. Teaching, at all, became very difficult. Last June the Key Learning Community shut its doors for good.
This year I joined the staff of Francis W. Parker Montessori School 56 — a loving school with a long name. When I was hired there was on stipulation — organize and develop a program like the Key Strummers. I had found a school that recognized teacher passion and sought to use it to enrich children’s learning. After eight years of struggling to survive as an educator I’ve again found a school family.
Tomorrow the “Uke Club” — the first step in a new ukulele program — will meet for the first time. I expect twelve students. We have 4 ukuleles. We will begin as the Key Strummers did — passing ukes around the circle.
I am making the plea that I made 16 years ago. If you have an unplayed ukulele in the closet, under the bed or the attic. There are a bunch of inner city kids that are eager to become strummers.
Contact Geoff Davis via Facebook, or ship a uke to him care of this address:
Francis W. Parker School 56
2353 N. Columbia Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46205

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