Keeping the Blues Alive / Blues News  / KTBA Donates Ukuleles to Young Bronx Musicians

KTBA Donates Ukuleles to Young, Bronx, NY Musicians

BRONX, NY, USA – Thanks to your donations, KTBA donated twenty-four brand new ukuleles to the music program at PS 71. This will enable K-8 music teacher, Ms. DiStefano, the ability to exercise a ukulele ensemble for the school!


“Music is fundamental to the development and growth of every child,” Ms. DiStefano says. “When students come to a music class, they expect to sing or play music. My students are eager and excited, especially when learning how to play a musical instrument.”

DiStefano teaches in an urban K-8 school located in the Bronx. She is responsible for nurturing the musical growth and success of at least 600 students or more, at any given time of the year.

“Playing a musical instrument is a skill that lasts a lifetime,” she explains. “In my classroom, I am fostering teamwork, autonomy, and a life-long passion for music. Students will learn to work cohesively as a unit when playing in an ensemble; [they] understand the importance of independent practice and work on using the proper communicative skills between musicians and conductors.

My students are budding musicians learning how to analyze, create, and perform music. As a music teacher, I am providing my classes an opportunity to explore their creative side while giving them a well-rounded music education.”

Class sizes at PS 71 account for up to 33 students per classroom. The ukulele is small and easy to manage and situate in this setting. In terms of volume, playing ukulele is softer when all musicians are practicing simultaneously.

With this donation, participating students will learn basic strumming techniques, simple chord progressions, and traditional folk melodies.

“Students will start building a vast repertoire on the ukulele and in order for this music making process to occur we need these instruments to play,” she adds. “I would like to also incorporate song writing/composition with my classes. Having these instruments will motivate and inspire them to be their very best musician and composer.”

Thanks to the generosity of Joe Bonamassa fans and music lovers like you, Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation was able to donate these brand new ukuleles to Ms. DiStefano’s music program.
Ms. DiStefano expresses her gratitude for the instruments:

Dear Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation, Inc.,

Thank you so much for your generous donation. Now my musicians can all start learning how to jam on the ukulele. It is beneficial to maximize learning time if every student has an instrument to practice on. Your contribution will give my students that new opportunity to play and create music using the ukuleles. We appreciate your support of the arts and music education. Stay tuned for our pics!

With gratitude, Ms. DiStefano

Every week, Keeping the Blues Alive Foundation makes a donation to a school in need of music instruments, supplies, sheet music, and more! Your donation helps us to keep music in schools, while preserving blues heritage.

If you would like to help us fund next week’s project, click here to make a donation! All donations are fully tax-deductible!

Thank you for keeping music education in schools!

*** UPDATE 6/19/19 ***

Thanks to your donations, Ms. DiStefano has been able to implement the ukuleles into her program. Although they got off to a late start, they are excited for the possibilities!

Dear Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation, Inc.,

My musicians and I got off to a late start this school year playing on our lovely new ukuleles. I only see my students once a cycle and with state tests, assemblies, vacations, and so forth, our Ukulele Unit started much later than anticipated. My 5th and 6th Grade students have been playing for 2 weeks, which is essentially only two class periods. They can already play three
1-finger chords: C, Am, and F. We are using curricula from the Little Kids Rock program. In addition to our Little Kids Rock resources, we are working on two melodies: Mary Had A Little Lamb on the A-string and Smoke on The Water by Deep Purple on the G-string.

My students were amazed and humbled that these instruments were not bought by the school and were actually donated. Their surprised facial expressions and comments like “Reaaally” or “Wow that’s nice,” showed how grateful they are. One student said, “They actually gave them to us for free?” Kids in general love new things. Switching from piano to ukulele was refreshing and challenging. They are super happy that they each have their own to play and practice on instead of sharing with a partner. This gives them a chance for more practice time. Overall they are extremely excited and ready to rock.

My students will have only two months to become their best musician. By the end of the school year the goal is to play multiple song progressions using the following four chords: C, Am, F, and G. They also have to play two short melodies on the A-string and G-string. If we can add more songs and chords to our repertoire we will depending on time. They will have music in their schedule next year allowing them to grow musically.

We are learning in our ensemble how to follow the conductor, by starting and stopping in unison using gestures and cues. When playing as an ensemble, they are improving upon listening skills and balancing volume. This allows them to understand through application the importance of group play versus solo play while instilling patience and focus. We always have a set solo time for those who are ready to show off their talent. Giving them a time to shine while teaching the listeners to respect a performer. We always pay attention and watch, especially when a soloist is playing conveying proper audience etiquette. We mean business during solo time, so no interruptions like talking or playing/strumming during the solo. We have created an “Uke of Applause.” That is our version of clapping by the class strumming the open strings rapidly. They love that!

The best part is watching them enjoy learning and feeling successful. This experience gives them a chance to feel proud about their hard work and persevering when things seem hard. Thank you for giving my students the opportunity to love and appreciate music through the ukulele.

With gratitude,
Ms. DiStefano

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