District News

Powhatan’s music classes add ukuleles during COVID

Posted on: October 9, 2020

Powhatan Elementary’s music teacher, Nathan Underwood, has received a mini-grant to buy and implement the use of ukuleles in Powhatan’s music classes. Each student will be able to learn ukulele and apply that knowledge in music class. 

Typically, students are able to participate in separate classes of general music and band. Due to the constraints of the pandemic, these classes were combined into the same period. Mr. Underwood believes ukuleles will be the perfect bridge between the two class’ curricula. 

“I will be tuning the ukuleles down a whole step from their standard tuning so that students can learn and play in a band-friendly key,” he says. Different instruments require different tuning due to how the instruments are made; by tuning the ukuleles “down,” students will be able to play, for instance, trumpet music and be in the same key center as the rest of the class. “The students will not notice a difference. When we continue to use them in the future as their own general music module, I can tune them back to their normal state and all of the same chords and hand shapes will still apply. It should be a fairly seamless transition!” 

This means that general music students will be able to play band music on ukuleles concurrently with the other wind and percussion players – a unique and creative solution to bring some interest to music class during a stressful time.

The building of a traditional band program at Powhatan Elementary will continue with the utmost concern for safety.  Students playing woodwinds and brass will be using covers for the bells of their instruments to diminish aerosols that are potentially dispersed while playing.  Between this measure, the wearing of masks, social distancing, and the new upgrades to the SOLSD HVAC systems, we are providing an experience that is cognizant of student educational and safety needs.