C-A music students learning to play ukuleles

Third graders at Randels Elementary School are learning to play ukeleles won in a contest by music teacher Sue Miller.

Third graders at Randels Elementary School are learning to play ukeleles won in a contest by music teacher Sue Miller.

FLINT TWP. — The magic of a ukulele in the hands of a talented child was showcased by 12-year-old Grace Vanderwaal, of Suffern, New York who walked off last month with the top $1 million prize on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent competition.

But stay tuned. Now a stroke of luck has put 60 ukuleles in the hands of music students at Carman-Ainsworth’s Randels and Rankin elementary schools.

C-A music teacher and coordinator Sue Miller won the instruments last month in a Facebook contest sponsored by Kala Brand Music of California. Miller at first was skeptical about the contest which offered 40 free ukuleles to the first 80 schools east of the Mississippi who liked and shared an online post and also sent an email.

“I was like yeah, right,” said Miller, who did what was asked. She still figured there must be a catch when she was notified the next day that she was a winner. But after talking to Kala representatives, she learned that it was a legitimate offer. The win was for 40 instruments but she shared with Kala that another teacher in the district also was interested, so they sent 60.

“I felt pretty fortunate. “Miller said of her surprise at the arrival of three large boxes containing 60 ukuleles. Miller only needed 32 so she shared the other 28 with a Rankin teacher. Miller’s share of instruments are now artfully displayed on a specially built rack in her classroom that was designed by a friend, Dan Martin, to fit over the chalkboard. Miller, her husband and friend built the three-sectioned wooden rack in her yard.

The blue and gray ukeleles displayed on the board even match the school colors.

“The kids are really excited about it too,” said Miller, who prefers keeping the attention on her students. She started working with a group of third graders last week, teaching them how to hold and tune the instruments. She hopes to eventually extend strumming lessons to all grades, even kindergartners.

It is the first year of ukelele instruction for C-A students but Miller is hoping they progress enough for a mini performance at a future school board meeting and a fine arts concert next spring.

Miller added that C-A could use more donated instruments of all kinds due to a resurgence of student interest in joining the school band. There is a shortage for students who cannot afford instruments. C-A’s Kyle Hart Fund is set up to help those students.

“Please check your closets and attics for instruments no longer used in your family,” Miller said, adding that cash donations also are welcome. Please make checks out to the Kyle Hart Fund and send to Sue Miller at Randels Elementary, 6022 Brobeck St, Flint, MI 48532.

The Kyle Hart Fund was set up more than ten years ago to honor the memory of a C-A fifth-grade student who passed away unexpectedly in 1999.

Miller also accepts instruments that are no longer playable. She converts those into artful lamps which she sells as a fundraiser for the C-A music program.

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