Virtual ukulele club connects 4-H’ers to the arts

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WINCHESTER, Ky. (WTVQ/UK Public Affairs) – A virtual 4-H club is instilling the love of music and the arts into young Kentuckians.

Jennifer Tackett, 4-H youth development specialist in the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, started the ukulele club to provide music appreciation and education to young people who were isolated and needing an artistic outlet during the pandemic.

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A musician and songwriter herself, the club was a way for Tackett to share her passion for music with others and introduce them to music.

“The ukulele is a great instrument for young people to start on because it is really easy to play. It’s portable, and it’s affordable,” Tackett said.

Within the first day of registration, 62 Kentucky 4-H’ers had expressed interest in joining the club. The club averaged 40 youth at each Zoom meeting.

“We are reaching a new population of youth who are interested in 4-H and the arts,” Tackett said. “This is a great way to get more youth into 4-H through the arts.”

Through nine virtual meetings, Tackett taught 4-H’ers the basics of the ukulele, including the parts, history, how to properly hold the instrument, strumming and different chords. 4-H’ers submitted songs they wanted to learn.  By the end of the second meeting, 4-H’ers were playing “You are My Sunshine.” They also learned to play “Best Day of My Life” by the time the club ended.

“When you teach arts, it is really important to have them leave the meeting feeling like they have accomplished something and feeling good about themselves,” Tackett said. “We tried to do that every time.”

Myla Leger, a Clark County 4-H member and seventh grader, participated in the club. Leger had previous experience with the ukulele but had not played in some time.

“Joining this club revived my interest for the ukulele,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed it so much. This has led me to join a guitar class as an elective in middle school.”

The club has opened a career possibility to Leger.

“My interest in art, plus interest in my ukulele and music have made me interested in becoming a recreational therapist,” said Leger, who is legally blind. “I want to help kids who have disabilities, like me with my sight, grow with music, art and things that I enjoy.”

Due to the club’s popularity, Tackett plans to continue the club in its virtual format in the upcoming school year.  She also plans to expand the project to include a ukulele songwriting class for advanced youth musicians.

The UK Cooperative Extension Service is part of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

With its land-grant partner, Kentucky State University, the UK Cooperative Extension Service brings the university to the people in their local communities, addressing issues of importance to all Kentuckians.