Play it Strange Trust – Budding Musicians set to be strumming to a new tune

Mazda Foundation grant enables Play it Strange to expand its Ukulele in Schools programme.

A group of Kiwi musicians, who have been gunning for the ukulele to replace the recorder as the primary school musical instrument of choice, are one step closer to their goal thanks to the Mazda Foundation.

Ex-pupil and music industry personality Peter Urlich (middle) teaches Sacred Heart Intermediate students how to play the Ukulele while Mike Chunn (rear left) from Play it Strange and Mazda’s Andrew Clearwater (rear right) look on.

Mazda Foundation has gifted $15,000 to the Play it Strange Trust, which encourages young New Zealanders to develop interests and skills in musical composition and performance. $7,000 has already been used to purchase 200 ukuleles for ten primary and intermediate schools in Auckland and the remaining $8,000 will enable further schools to enjoy ukulele orchestras. These schools are currently being chosen in conjunction with the Ministry of Education’s music advisor.

Play it Strange CEO Mike Chunn is the former bass guitarist of Split Enz and a huge cheerleader of homegrown music. He says the ukulele is a wonderful instrument to get younger children excited about music and leads naturally to the guitar and other more sophisticated instruments.

“Kids just love strumming away on the ukuleles,” says Chunn. “As a four stringed instrument it is simple to learn and suits smaller hands. What’s more – unlike a recorder – you can actually sing along to a ukulele. This country is fizzing with untapped musical talent and it is so important that this talent is encouraged and nurtured.”

The ukulele programme gives students access to instruments they otherwise may not have access to, and adds a new ‘fun’ dimension to music education in schools.

The ukulele donation programme to schools has been running since 2004 when the Play it Strange Trust was approached by legendary steel guitar player Bill Sevesi with the idea. Since then, 1400 ukuleles have been given out to a total of 70 schools around New Zealand.

The ten East-Auckland schools that have received ukuleles as a result of the Mazda Foundation funding include: Tamaki Primary (Panmure), Point England School (Point England), Tamaki Intermediate (Panmure), Glen Innes Primary, St Patrick’s (Panmure), Panmure Bridge School, Stanhope Rd School (Mt Wellington), Sylvia Park School (Mt Wellington), St Pius X School (Glen Innes) and Sacred Heart Intermediate (Glen Innes).