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  • ukulele players at Hespeler
    The ukulele group at Idea Exchange, Hespeler

Sheridan Flietstra, Jacob Hespeler Secondary School Co-op Student | January 3, 2019

Along with dozens of other programs, Idea Exchange offers a ukulele program. Running at three locations, each group has a very different style.

The three groups are run by John Nielson, Claude Belanger, and Jonathan Marsh.

John runs the Hespeler group which tends to be a sing-a-long, as well as play-a-long group. There are no starting expectations of this group’s attendees. This group is directed by its members. A “uke-tocracy” as John calls it.

At Hespeler, songs are projected onto a screen for people to sing and play along to. The songs are drawn from a web page created by a former group member, and the page is updated by current member David Bach. For newcomers to the group, there are four lender ukuleles so that people can try it out before deciding if they want to buy their own.

After the first year of the Hespeler ukulele group, some members decided they wanted more than sing-a-long. John was working full-time at that point, and Claude helped to both start and run the Queen’s Square group.

Claude focuses more on developing a repertoire, rather than singing and playing along. He supplies paper copies of the music for use at performances. Claude also emphasizes the use of “tablature,” which is a simplified form of music notation as a way to both highlight melodies and give members increased independence in mastering more difficult music. A gift that Claude has is his ability to select songs that are especially memorable and catchy. Claude also has a deep understanding of teaching, being a retired teacher himself.

Jonathan later entered the picture and formed the program at the Preston location. Being a teacher, he brings a passion to the group for both individual and group teaching. Jonathan has a certain way of bringing the music out of people.

In summary, if you’re simply curious about ukuleles and wish to try one out, the Hespeler location is a good fit for you. If you understand the basics of the ukulele and want a little bit more structure, head over to Queen’s Square. Lastly, if you need some individual attention or need to ask specific questions about your personal ukulele journey, Preston is a great place for you.

Though each group is different and unique, there is no hierarchy, nor competition between the groups or organizers. All of the groups, as well as their organizers, work together to direct members according to their needs. Each group has members that also attend the other groups.

The Idea Exchange ukulele groups are made up of incredible individuals who all share a passion and love for music. Through their combined passion, they are able to both teach and learn new things.