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Ukulele Day: Using the In-Class Performance to Empower Your Young Musicians

Nicole Guimaraes • January 2024Modern Band • January 8, 2024

Every music educator would agree there is incredible value in allowing our students the opportunity to perform. The hard work that goes into preparing and the pride they feel following a fantastic performance cannot be recreated or found in any other subject. As a general music teacher, we face a unique challenge of creating performance opportunities for an entire grade level of students that should perform together.

We all know the feeling— we send our students home on performance day, hoping their family will remember there is a concert that evening. We hope enough of them will show up. We are taken aback when students who we expected to attend are not present. Kids don’t know where to stand because the person they normally stand next to is not there. Someone shows up late and many show up ridiculously early. 

I teach at a K-2 school and have eight classes of each grade. How on earth am I supposed to plan a first grade concert with 180 6-7 year olds on my tiny school stage? How do I plan a ukulele performance with just a class set of instruments? How do I ensure every student can perform, regardless of transportation concerns or ability to make it to an evening performance?

The answer is simple: the in-class performance.

It’s simple, really. Set up a stage area in your classroom. I highly suggest having the concert in the music room, if possible. Set up some chairs and invite your students’ families to school. The concert will take place during their music class. All your students must do is come to school that day. You don’t have to worry about who is going to show up, and most importantly, kids who would not have been able to make it to an evening performance can perform.

This year, all my first and second grade classes participated in an in-class performance. first graders performed in their Spring Sing, and second graders performed at Ukulele Day. Out of 335 students, ten were absent on the day of their performance and two did not participate because of their IEPs. That means 96% of my first and second grade students took part in a musical performance. Compare that with what would have happened had I hosted an evening event. 

Having an in-class performance offers many other benefits you wouldn’t find in a large-scale evening concert. They are much more intimate in that you can connect with every student while they are performing. You can create individualized programs based on the class by letting them choose their repertoire or how they are going to perform certain songs. You can feature more student soloists and have a special moment with every parent or family member.

For example, at this year’s First Grade Spring Sing, we performed a number rap that featured four soloists per class. We performed a body percussion piece that featured students counting in different languages, and we performed an original class composition. That meant 44 of my first grade students, or 25%, performed a solo and received a shout out in front of an audience. There were even more second grade soloists, as we performed ukulele tab solos, original compositions, number counting, and more.

You can also include the audience in the performance. Think about your call and response songs. Perform it as you would in-class, and then switch roles. The class is the call, and the audience is the response. This is such a beautiful way to make music together. You can also let your students teach their family how to play the ukulele at the end of the show– just make sure their family doesn’t turn the pegs!

Below is a sample program from this year’s second grade concert:

Of course, there will be some students who do not have family members who can attend during the day. Those students still get the opportunity to perform. Invite teachers, counselors, administrators, and support staff to attend with those students. Your students will love teaching their principal how to play the ukulele just as much as they would their family! You can send photos and videos to the families of those who were not able to attend. 

So have some fun with in-class performances this year. Don’t be afraid of student choice in choosing your repertoire and embrace music-making with your entire community.

Nicole Guimaraes is a teacher at Mount Daniel Elementary in Falls Church City, VA. You can contact her at guimaraesn@fccps.org

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