It was a tough audience. These high school students had entered a contest, called “Write-Offs”, to write a review. They don’t know until they get into the room for the contest what they will be writing a review for. It could be anything. But this time — it was about the ukulele. A foreign instrument to most of these teens. Only four students in the room had ever held a ukulele. I asked.
These young people currently are on their newspaper, yearbook, online, magazine and/or broadcast staff at their high schools. Twice a year they might attend the JEA/NSPA convention. Part of the convention is about competing against other writers, photographers and videographers in various contests.
So the room was full of 75 teenage review writers. They were given a fact sheet about the ukulele and about Brook Adams.
I introduced Brook and because I had a bit of extra time (he probably had trouble finding a parking spot) I explained there were different sizes of ukuleles. From the vigorous writing sounds I heard I knew this was news to these students.
Brook played his concert carbon-fiber ukulele that Mike DaSilva had made.
After he’d played for about 30 minutes, he answered questions from the students, and then the students had about 80 minutes to
write their reviews before handing them in.
Later a group of seven educators graded the reviews. The best ones could receive honorable mention, excellent or superior ratings with a certificate to go along with the win.
It was interesting to read the reviews. Many of the students thought they heard things like “gentle strains of Hawaii” in the auditorium. Maybe the illusion of sound came from the fact that Brook wore a Hawaiian shirt over his t-shirt and jeans. He played Beatles, Sousa, Sublime’s “Santeria”, his own works and a few others.
I doubt very many of the students were familiar with the phenomenon of ukulele on YouTube. It’s likely that names like Jake Shimabukuro and Julia Nunes are totally unknown to these students.
I wonder how many of them will leave the review writing exercise and “Google” ukulele, pick up a ukulele, learn a few chords, and try playing their favorite cover. I wonder if there’s potential here to develop ukulele perspectives.
You can listen to some of the concert here and write your own review, if you like.