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Mamaroneck Students Strum Along on Ukulele

MAMARONECK, N.Y. - Stephen Chinn taught Jadalyn Ortiz and her classmates four basic chords on the ukulele, which they put together to play Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" by the end of class. Like Ortiz, Nehemias Fuentes liked the ukulele because, he said, it was easy and fun to play. "It's kind of like the guitar, only a smaller version," he said.

Chinn, the music teacher at Mamaroneck Avenue School, introduced the ukulele into his curriculum this year. "My goal is to integrate it as one of the instruments that everybody learns how to play, along with the recorder," Chinn said. "They also learn basic keyboarding, and xylophone, and basic percussion instruments. It's just another instrument that I'm going to use as a tool to teach music."

The ukulele's popularity is exploding, said Chinn, who hopes playing the instrument will make the transition into his June guitar lesson that much easier. The ukulele has four strings, compared to the guitar's six, which allows children of any age to play. "It's small enough that any size hand can reach any fret," Chinn said.

Alan Goodman, the father of one of his students, is a local guitar and ukulele player and introduced Chinn to the instrument. "I always thought it was kind of a toy instrument," Chinn said. "But he taught me all about it and taught me how to play. He has accompanied my choir for the past three years, playing ukulele along with my choir."

The ukulele has also taken hold at Mamaroneck High School through the Ukulele Club , which usually plays at school events, such as Martin Luther King Day. This year, they hope to play a concert at Willow Towers, a New Rochelle retirement home, where Olivia Crumm, a Larchmont resident and vice president of the club, volunteered for a community service Bingo event last year.

Chinn, who received the 23 ukuleles that now line his music room, said the curriculum is still in the testing phases, and will gain steam after the winter concerts.

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