Did you know that the ukulele dates back to the 1800s? According to legend, Portuguese immigrants brought ukuleles with them to Hawaii around 1879. The little four-stringed instrument has remained popular since then – and tutor Andrew Mahon is playing his part by giving ukulele night classes in Portmarnock Community School.
“The ukulele is easy to play and can lead you on to learning how to play other stringed instruments, like the mandolin, banjo or guitar,” says Andrew, who also teaches beginner and advanced guitar night classes in the school.
“With a small fret board, it’s ideal for all ages, and we have people from their 20s up to retirement ages in the class. We limit it to 10 places so that I can get around to each person a few times. Everyone has a different style and speed of learning, so this way I can show them the proper way to hold the instrument and help them with the chords.”
From the sounds of Hawaii to old western music, the sweet sound of the ukulele has transfixed people for generations. Andrew keeps a contemporary twist to the tunes the group learns, with much competition to learn melodies suggested by the night class participants themselves!
“We cover everything from Abba to Mary Black, David Bowie, and songs from The Greatest Showman – and anything and everything in between,” says Andrew. “Then, there’s the added sense of achievement – and investment - from learning a song that they have picked themselves.”
It obviously works, with classes running from Christmas right through to the summer and through mid-term. “I also set out songs for the students to learn over the summer, so there’s no break in momentum. That then leads to a lot of repeat people coming to the classes, so we have a blend of new and old faces each term.”
There is also a blend of skills, which serves to motivate new students when they see the level of skills that can be achieved. And they’re in good hands – Andrew has been an avid guitar player for over 20 years playing for enjoyment and also professionally. Having attained his teaching diploma for guitar from the Victoria College of Music, London, he’s sharing the joy that playing music can bring with a winning formula!
A number of NACED schools now run Ukulele classes for beginners and improvers. There are courses available in Cork, Meath, Kildare, Dublin and Wexford.