Plastic recorders are great for teaching kids the fundamentals of music. But to take them to the next level, kids need to practice on an instrument that’s more complex than a recorder.
Sara M. Hagerty, music teacher at Lakeside Elementary School, had borrowed ukuleles for her fifth-grade pupils through a nine-week loan program offered by Henrico County Public Schools. They loved the instrument, so Hagerty asked donors to help fund the purchase of ukuleles for her class.
That’s when instrument-maker Gabe Sinclair got involved.
Gabe is founder of the Four Hour Day Lutherie, a home for hands-on practice of the creative arts. The group hosts musical performances, makes custom stringed instruments, and teaches workshops in instrument building.
Gabe made 30 ukuleles from sturdy bamboo plywood, and donated them to Lakeside Elementary School, and hopes to duplicate the effort at other public schools.
On Friday, March 1, he spoke to an audience of Lakeside Elementary fifth graders about the joys of making instruments by hand, whether as simple as a single-string “can-jo” or as complex as a hurdy-gurdy. “
Can you think of other things that seem impossible that you might build?” Gabe asked. “A treehouse,” one student said.
“A recliner,” another suggested.
“Could you make a PS4 (PlayStation 4)?” one boy asked.
“When you make something, things can go wrong,” Gabe Sinclair told the students. He has the scars to prove it, plus a whole basement full of experimental instruments that didn’t quite work. But it’s okay to fail, he said to the students. “That’s how you succeed.”