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Ukuleles offer closing music for Learning Lunch season

The Lincoln Public Schools Learning Lunch series ended its 2017-18 season on a positive note on Tuesday, thanks to the happy sound of ukuleles being strummed inside the Board Room at LPS District Office.

The four-string instruments were the main attraction for “Uke Can Do It,” presented by Lance Nielsen, LPS music curriculum specialist; Megan O’Brien, music teacher at Zeman Elementary School; and a group of O’Brien’s fifth-grade music students.

Elementary and middle school music teachers across LPS are increasingly using ukuleles to engage their students. Zeman is one of about a dozen elementary schools, along with four middle schools, that have incorporated the instrument into their music instruction. O’Brien began teaching with them when she arrived at Zeman in 2015, thanks to a grant through the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools that paid for 27 ukuleles.

“This is kind of the new hip instrument in all of our music classes,” Nielsen said.

There are numerous advantages to teaching music with ukuleles, as O’Brien told the Learning Lunch audience:

  • They’re affordable.
  • They’re low maintenance and stay in tune easily.
  • They’re engaging for students - from kindergartners just learning how to strum to fifth-graders writing their own music.
  • They’re a kid-friendly size.
  • And learning to play them covers multiple state and national music education standards.

“They provide our students with a functional, authentic instrument. We’re not playing with toys, we’re not playing with pretend instruments,” O’Brien said. “This is something that really impacts their musicianship.”

At the end of Tuesday’s program, students shifted into the audience to help attendees learn basic chords and techniques on ukuleles that were placed at each table. Students and the audience joined together for a rousing rendition of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as the final Learning Lunch of the school year came to a close.

LPS Learning Lunches, open to the Lincoln community, are generally held on the last Tuesday of the month during the school year. Watch this summer for next year’s Learning Lunch lineup.


Published: May 15, 2018, Updated: May 16, 2018

"They provide our students with a functional, authentic instrument. We’re not playing with toys, we’re not playing with pretend instruments. This is something that really impacts their musicianship."

Megan O'Brien, music teacher at Zeman Elementary School

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