Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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February 17, 2013

Bethany students spend J-term learning how to make instrument

GOSHEN — Ethan Lapp, a freshman at Bethany High School, plays the violin.

And during a recent two-week J-term at the school, he decided to try the Ukulele Choir class.

He learned to play the instrument at the end of session and performed with his ukulele classmates before the student body.

They just had to make their instruments first — from a kit.

“I picked the class because it seemed interesting to make an instrument I could make and play later besides my violin,” Ethan said, smiling. “It was a little bit easier knowing how to read music, but it was difficult to learn the chords.”

Tenth-grader Marisa Marquez never played an instrument, much less made an instrument.

“I wanted to learn to play,” Marisa said.

Was it hard to make an instrument from a kit?

“There were some easy parts and some were more difficult,” Marisa said. “The rosettes were decorations to put around the sound board and they were hard.”

Sophomore Vashti Neff had some experience with woodworking and helping her dad at home in his wood shop, she said.

“That was easy for me. I knew some of the background with that. We did a lot of gluing and clamping,” Vashti said. “The building was easy but not the playing. It’s pretty easy to play but I don’t have the knack to play it. Some played it because they had the knack. Some didn’t like me.”

After the students began building their ukuleles and waiting for the gluing process to dry, they did research projects including famous people that played the ukulele, the different types of wood used in making it, where it originated from and the different parts of the instrument.

“We learned about the braces, frets (the finger placements on the fretboard), and rosettes,” Vashti said. “I was fretting about the fretting because the frets were kind of hard for me.”

The three students looked at each other during their interview with a reporter and laughed when Vashti talked about fretting.

“We have lots of fond memories and inside jokes,” Marisa said. “We had a lot of laughs when we practiced songs to perform for the school.”

An impromptu performance through the school hallways happened one afternoon by the some of the students, Ethan said.

Then the whole class performed for the students during a planned assembly.

“We just had sore fingertips the first couple days when we started to learn to play,” he said. “And keeping it in tune. It didn’t want to stay in tune very well.”

Ethan said he was glad to have made some new friends among the upperclassmen.

“It was good meeting new people in the class. I didn’t know what to expect,” Ethan said.

Each student decorated their ukulele to make it unique and Ethan was pleased with the outcome of his creativity.

“It looked a lot better than I thought it would,” he said.

Vashti was happy and protective towards her project.

“I made it, I decorated it and I was prideful that I made it,” Vashti said. “I just didn’t want to drop it.”

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