Fine Arts, Student Activities

Jumping Fleas at SMA

In Hawaiian:
uku = fleas
lele = to jump

In addition to our choir, orchestra, and piano ensemble, the music department of SMA is proud to announce that Ukulele has returned to the curriculum. The fine and performing arts have always been important to St. Mary’s Academy. The founding Sisters knew that in order to provide a well-rounded education, the arts are a necessary component. In fact, in 1859 when the Sisters departed Montreal to start our school in Portland, they stopped in New York to purchase a piano along the way, and we have photographic evidence of a guitar, lute, banjo, and ukulele class (along with other string instruments) at the school from 1893.

One hundred twenty-three years later, we have 24 students strumming and plucking up a storm with music teacher Ashley McCullar during their block 3 Ukulele class. The name of the instrument, “ukulele” comes from the native Hawaiian’s observation that fingers of Portuguese immigrants (who introduced the instrument to the islands in the 19th century) looked like “jumping fleas” as they danced across the strings and frets.

Our SMA ukulele class focuses on developing a deeper understanding of the eight elements of music including style, timbre, harmony, expression, melody, rhythm, texture, and form. Through creating arrangements and compositions, working with apps such as Garage Band and Music Tutor, performing in small and large ensembles, responding to the artistic work of classmates, and connecting to their art, students are discovering the artistic process required to play this instrument.

As the semester progresses, so will the students’ develop the kinesthetic and conceptual skills necessary to become proficient, capable, independent musicians. Second semester, another 26 students will take on the “jumping fleas.”  We invite you to the inaugural Ukulele Coffee House Jam Session on Wednesday, December 14, at 7:00 p.m. in the SMA Commons. There will be snacks, drinks, and plenty of good holiday cheer. Admission is free and we would love to see you there.

Pictured Below: Current and Past Classes