Tuning up their ukes
Ukulele fever has kicked in at the Dilworth School Junior Campus.
The sixth New Zealand Ukulele Festival will be held at The Trusts Stadium in Henderson on December 1 from 11am to 4pm.
A group of around 35 Dilworth students will be performing at the annual event as part of The Kiwileles - the largest ukulele orchestra in the world.
The group is made up of more than 3000 players from 125 schools around Auckland, Northland and Waikato.
Four year 8 students from the junior campus have been selected to be part of the New Zealand Ukulele Development Squad that will also perform at the festival.
It will be their second performance as a group after their participation in the APPA Music Festival at the Town Hall on November 21.
Dilworth music teacher Tim Carson says the festival is a "fantastic programme for students".
He is particularly pleased the New Zealand Ukulele Trust chose four students from Dilworth to be part of the development squad because it usually only chooses one or two from each school, he says.
Members of the advanced squad attended three afternoon workshops where they learned the pieces they will perform. Mr Carson is a strong advocate for the ukulele - not that he has to convince his students.
"At Dilworth everywhere you go you hear the sound of ukuleles. It's cheap, accessible and it's something they can very quickly play and sing along with.
"On the way they also learn about music theory and performance.
"It's all about informal music making.
"I teach them some things but they are also teaching one another, which is really good."
William To'ofohe is so enthusiastic he looks up new songs to learn on the internet. Miley Cyrus' Party in the USA is one he particularly enjoys playing because it's not too difficult and has good rhythm.
Principal Peter Vos says: "Often when they are walking over from the boarding house in the morning, you can hear them strumming away."
He puts the ukulele's popularity down to the fact it is hands-on.
"Boys like doing things with their hands, which is a lot of it I think. It also all very much aligns with the cultural makeup of the school. A lot of the festival repertoire is really accessible for Maori and Pasifika students," he says.
"It includes waiata and songs in Samoan, Tongan, Niuean, the boys really enjoy that. That's not to say that it's only our Maori and Pacific Island boys who enjoy playing the ukulele. It's popular across the school."
Giving up their free time on the weekend to attend the workshops was "worth it because we were learning new stuff", Viliami Fungavaka, one of the four boys, says.
See nzukulelefestival.org.nz for the full programme.
East And Bays Courier