Retellings, relatings, reflections

Singing For Love empowers youth

When the Blues artist works a short motif into a solo it’s like making a statement. As a young musician practices to master an instrument, developing a sound and style of their own it’s like finding a voice. The Blues is the story of improvisations on poverty, slavery, oppression and struggle, and the transformation of a people.

The basics of the Blues—5 notes and 3 chords—are relatively simple to grasp, and yet they are seeds that grow and may bear fruit for years to come.

Recording Day — and the kids were hot!

This Wednesday just past, an excited group of kids came out to Quantum Vox Recording, who graciously donated this time to round out the kids’ experience. Due to such things as camp and vacation a couple kids weren’t able to be there, and they were missed. But as we all know, the show must go on!

Singing For Love 2016 – a celebration “…of music and friendship”

That’s how it was described by an observer of several sessions – who happens to be 6 years old. When we asked the kids what they liked best about their summer with ukuleles they told us it was the friendships they made.

In a close second came the snacks! We did our best to keep them healthy. Their sugar fixes came in the form of fruit and juice.

This isn’t snacks, but part of the catering spread from performance day with parents.

Photo of a table filled with food and flowers.
Catering by Santo Pecado

On “teaching” empathy

Image of hand-written note by George Harrison, on music store stationery, dated Feb. 2, 1999.

When? Where? Why?

Singing for Love began as a sidebar, intended to attract greater participation in an existing program supporting survivors of domestic violence, by giving the participants a no-cost solution to child care issues that discouraged many moms’ regular attendance at sessions. Quite by accident, it had come to our attention that kids find ukuleles completely irresistible. I had already leveraged this knowledge to talk to young people in our local public alternative school about Blues history—slavery, Jim Crow, the northward migration, and the roots and emergence of an art form as a people’s response to various forms and levels of violence. With considerable help from their classroom teacher, I drew connections between art, history, language, and the human need for self expression, and wove it into the grade 7/8 Ontario music curriculum (“The Ontario Curriculum: Elementary—The Arts”). Could this strategy be expanded and adapted specifically for children who had experienced violence in their homes? How would that help them?

Songwriting 101

Songwriting workshop

Last meeting, we began to learn song-writing. We collected some thoughts, wrote down some words, hummed and sang a blues scale melody, and presto… a song was born!

Working together, we thought of happy days with our families. The kids’ own suggestions went on the board and we took turns creating lines that fit a 12-bar shuffle beat in 4. We looked for unifying factors in our thoughts. Common themes we shared brought us together, and we saw how our coming together brought the song together. We also eliminated some words. They used things we’d talked about earlier, like call and response.

Holding the ukulele

The video pauses to allow you to read and look at the pictures. Press Play again to continue.

First session

Week one … we’re off to a good start!

Program begins Wednesday, June 1

We get under way this Wednesday at Counterpoint. A Lessons area has been added, and we’ll add to it as we go.

Wednesday, June 1
This week we’ll establish some guidelines, distribute instruments,  and show students how to hold the ukulele. We’ll begin learning the names of its different parts, the numbering of the strings and the fingers of the fretting hand.

Interviews for participants 5 to 7pm every Wednesday in May

Logo, Counterpoint Counselling and Educational Cooperative

Counterpoint Counselling & Educational Cooperative Inc.
Ste 601 — 920 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4W 3C7
Phone: 416-920-6516 ext 224Email:
Write to rcervantescounsellor at gmail dot com to make an appointment.

To “improvise” is to “improve upon.”

June—August 2016
Young people learn to play and write 12-bar Blues, with a view to the history of the Blues as a means of self discovery and self expression.

Learn the Ukulele —
   Write and Play the Blues

Under the guidance of experienced educator/performers, children ages 10 to 14 years learn about the Blues, its roots in slavery and emancipation, and its role in the struggle of a people for dignity and respect. They learn the chords of the Blues on the ukulele (provided) and write two Blues songs, which they’ll record in a local studio.