Pint-sized ukes unite
A small but powerful instrument will unite school pupils, families, and communities from across the country this weekend.
The 6th annual New Zealand Ukulele Festival will bring 2700 children from 126 schools across Auckland, Northland and Waikato together to perform 18 songs.
The performers are known as The Kiwileles - the largest ukulele orchestra in the world - and among them are Glen Eden Intermediate School pupils Una Dubbelt-Leitch and Joshua Parker, and Cameron Halberg from Henderson Valley School.
Musical talent runs in the family for 11-year-old Cameron, from Bethell's Beach, who has been part of the festival for six years.
"My granddad plays the guitar and the uke too so he taught me when I was six," he says.
"I really wanted to play the guitar but it was too big, so he bought me a ukulele. That's how I got into it."
Twelve-year-old Joshua's dad, David Parker, is in well-known New Zealand ukulele trio, The Nukes.
"People used to think that it was just a toy, whereas now it's grown into this really big instrument and it's popular all over the world."
"There are some really famous ukulele players now. I just love the sound and how it's a new instrument that's rising," Joshua says.
Una, 13, from Sunnyvale, has been involved in the festival for three years.
"The ukulele is a great instrument because there's lots of opportunities and there is a big range of styles," she says.
The Kiwileles consist of more than 2000 players from schools nationwide that have registered with the New Zealand Ukulele Trust.
Schools get a songbook and pupils will come together this weekend to perform to a crowd of 10,000.
Ukulele trust chairwoman and festival director Mary Cornish says the event brings communities together while showcasing talent.
"Different communities and schools come together through music," she says.
"There will always be people who think the ukulele is not a legitimate instrument, which is a shame.
"They are a great instrument for children to have success on quickly but can also take it as far as they want to," she says.
MC Jackie Clarke leads the free event of non-stop music, which includes two stages, a parade, continuous free workshops and competitions.
The Ukulele Festival at the Trusts Arena on Saturday from 11am till 4pm.
Visit nzukulelefestival. org.nz for more information on the event.