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Knar School Learns to Uke

11 March 2016

By Hannah Najar

This past fall Lucy Inouye, a frequent PLF volunteer from Hawaii, introduced a group of 12 students to the tunes of her hometown and paved the way for ukulele club at Knar school. It is with great excitement that we write this post to share the current accomplishments of PLF’s newest musicians!

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While she was here, Lucy combined ukulele with hula dancing to lead a fantastic ceremony to help students ring in the new school year. Her class of 12 learned a classic Hawaiian folksong, Pearly Shells, and accompanied students in a hula performance with matching choreography. It was truly a delight to watch the students celebrate their accomplishments by sharing them with the rest of the classmates and teachers. In addition to this success, the past summer’s ukulele club was a great compliment to her previous success leading a ukulele program for students to perform at the International Film Festival in Siem Reap.

However, when Lucy returned home to Hawaii, we felt a hole in the space where such a wonderful music outlet once was.  The ukulele box in the volunteer closet finally called Hannah, who has shared her experience with us below:

“As with many firsts, the first class was a bit wild. It takes time to find a rhythm with a new teacher and new music. As someone with quite a musical childhood it took me time to rethink how to tune without an instinctive ear, and especially to understand how much my self-taught ukulele education was influenced by the ability to learn a song I already know, in a language in which I’m fluent.

We started small, pulling the chairs out from behind the desks to form a circle where everyone could see and hear each other. We realized we needed Ka’Oun, Esa, and I teaching and translating and sharing techniques to successfully manage a class of 11. We mastered the electronic clip-on tuners, we discovered the difference between “Happy Birthday” the Cambodian way and the American way, and we sang extra loud when students began raising their hands to play in front of the class. After two months of Saturday lessons we’ve got a solid repertoire of 3 songs in the books.

It all came full circle when Lucy was able to accompany me out to class during her visit for the PLF 10 year anniversary party. While we were co-teaching, Lucy and I had a breakthrough with rhythm, realizing how much easier it was to create a rhythm by writing each chord out where it should be strummed rather than using the typical song format: only where a chord changes. It was such a joy to share the delight of progress and hear a song come together with such clarity.”

We would LOVE to continue the ukulele club and hope to have a volunteer to come and keep the music flowing! Do spread the word! 

Hannah Najar

Hannah Najar

Hannah has been involved with PLF since 2014 through a study abroad program with Union College. She returned to Cambodia in 2015 as an intern and is now serving as our Operations Director. She hails from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Hannah Najar

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