Teach the teachers how to teach
For lots of ukulele owners that would be good. Many obsess about their instruments and have a collection, partners often say “far too many”. But how about someone with a dozen top shelf ukuleles at home and another 35 in a rainbow of colours, plus a banjo uke, in the sidecar on his motorbike?
Shane McAlister was in the photographic business until a month ago, but far too extroverted for such a life, he’s jumped ship to teach ukulele “to the world,” calling himself the Ukulele Institute.
For the past few years Shane, very much a showman, has been leading a group of 10 to 40 uke players (depending on who comes) in singing/playing gatherings which appear at odd places like the Dell in Bolton Street, or a hotel in Cuba Street and recently he’s been teaching a group at Tawa Community College.
Only a month after the big lifestyle change he now teaches elementary ukulele to around 600 children at a dozen schools each week.
“Things have changed in the past few years,” says McAlister. “Children who used to learn recorder are now playing ukulele, which is maybe more appropriate for modern taste, and you can sing. Everyone loves singing.”
Last week he was teaching the teachers at Northland School how to teach their pupils to play and sing with the ukulele. He had just spent a period with some pupils who were keen to learn, and he was giving pointers to the teachers. Teachers who’d never held a ukulele had a happy period learning a few chords and how to play and sing a simple song.
McAlister says his mission is to “teach ukulele to the people”, saying, “now is a great age to learn.”
Some people certainly agree. His oldest pupil is 91.
Shane says he can teach a roomful of people to sing and play a song in less than an hour.
“You pick it and we’ll teach it to your team” he says.
This weekend he’s off to teach a hundred or so bankers in Auckland the joys of the wee instrument.
No fleas on this dog.
- John Bristed