I recently noticed Mr. Rick Romano's article from last week, about Tosa students learning to play the ukulele. I immediately thought "ahh... that's why that kid was walking around the Longefellow Middle School neighborhood, strumming a uke, as if he was a Renaissance musician strolling with his lute." It seemed odd and out of place at the time, but apparently not - how cool is it that Tosa kids have a ukulele club?!
Ukes are fantastic instruments to teach music with. They have just four strings, are fairly inexpensive (you can find violin strings that cost more for one string than an entire ukulele), and are extremely portable. I can fit one in my purse! The tuning is the only slightly tricky part, but once you get past that you're good to go. It doesn't take long to learn three chords on the thing, and honestly, most pop songs only require three chords (*ahem*).Besides all that, as evidenced in Tosa schools, ukes are hip again.
I've got one myself, which I've had out in my piano studio for kids (or parents) to play around with as they're waiting. They are great for that.
On a personal note, I'll always have fond memories of ukuleles as a result of our honeymoon, almost one year ago. Nick and I went to Hawaii! You can't swing a pineapple without hitting a uke player there. Every single live band we heard performing employed one. It was awesome! There was no way to not identify the instrument sound with the islands. Oh, and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, "IZ," is Hawaii's biggest celebrity (albeit post-morten), for his version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, done with a simple uke accompaniment.
Ukuleles are great li'l instruments. I love that Tosa youths are learning about them! They would even be great for adults, maybe for those who've always wanted to play guitar. Here is a similar instrument that is slightly less of an investment that can give you some basic chords right away, possibly sooner than one might be able to play them on guitar (four strings versus six). Just a thought :-)
P.S. Did you know Milwaukee has a ukulele club?