Up with Ukuleles!

Matilija Junior High School music teacher Thomas Fredrickson received $2,500 last spring from the Ojai Education Foundation to buy 35 ukuleles for his students to learn to read and play music. The rewards of that investment were clear March 2 as the students in his Exploration of Music Class gave a concert in the Matilija Auditorium.

Music and vocal students performed a 30-minute concert of ukulele, choral, cello and violin pieces for the school, including “Pomp and Circumstance,” which the seventh-graders will play during the eighth-grade graduation ceremony in June, and “Lean on Me.” Many of the students in the music class are learning to read and play music for the first time, and the grant from OEF made that possible.

“There are currently 200 students who have engaged in ukuleles in some way,” said Fredrickson. “Many of these kids who might not otherwise play music are now exposed to it and having fun because of the ukuleles. After realizing the power and impact of them, I ended up buying more!”

Fredrickson said the instruments are not just helping budding musicians. “These instruments are also used during choir practice and are available for students to play during tutorial.”

Fredrickson says he knows that only a few students will make music a profession, but hopes the exposure they get from music now will help them in other aspects of their lives in the future.

“I often share with my students that when adults ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them that I teach music, they reply back in one of three ways; that they are also a musician and are very happy; that they wish they had studied music and regret that they didn’t; or that they played music at some point and eventually quit, but now wish they had stuck with it. So, I always tell my students to enjoy this opportunity they have now to play music!”

Each year, teachers in the Ojai Unified School District submit grant requests to OEF to purchase technology, science or the arts for their students. For the 2016-17 school year, Fredrickson was one of approximately 30 Ojai public school teachers to receive a portion of $30,000 total in Education Grants from OEF.  In addition to musical instruments, OEF Education Grants funded Chromebooks, teacher technology training, binoculars for student use at the Ojai Meadow, microscopes and books.  OEF will announce its grant awards to teachers for the 2017 - 2018 school year this Spring.

OEF’s funding for critical programs and resources in our public schools is supported through key fundraisers throughout the year. On Saturday, April 22, OEF is co-hosting the 17th annual Ojai Golf Classic at Soule Park, a fundraiser that supports both OEF and the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation. Go to www.OjaiEd.org or www.OjaiGolfClassic.com for more information.