On September 14, 2016, 12-year-old Grace Vanderwaal of Suffern, New York proved herself as the winner of America’s Got Talent through her unique ukulele and singing abilities.
Since Van Derwaal’s million dollar-win, millions of fans have taken up learning how to play the ukulele. As the instrument has grown in popularity, four Academy students have begun to showcase the unique talent for themselves. The ukulele players of Academy include:
“I got my ukulele about a year ago for my birthday from my parents. I’ve always really liked the sound of the ukulele and always wanted to try it. I’ve learned mainly online thanks to my lifesaver, ukutabs.com. Katelyn Chau and I sang and played the ukulele at the Talent Show this year and it was really fun. I think my favorite ukulele memory was writing our own song for Mr. Hendrickson during our Mississippi mission trip. It was so much fun to collaborate with everyone and to perform it for him. It was awesome. The ukulele is awesome. It’s a win-win.”
“I started learning how to play the ukulele last summer. I’m not amazing but it’s something fun to mess around and do. I started to play because I liked the whole vibe of it and it always seemed to make people happy. I learned by searching it online and I like it because it’s relaxing and fun to do.”
“I got my ukulele for Christmas in eighth grade. She’s a Luna Concert Ukulele with the famous “Great Wave” painting on it. I basically wanted to learn because I wanted to know how to play as many instruments as possible at the time, as I already played guitar, piano, clarinet, and a little bit of the drums. I also thought that the ukulele sounds like vacation or getaway type of instrument, and almost super carefree and serene. It’s super small and portable, so I travel with it basically around the world. Learning it was easy because I’d been playing guitar for over six years prior, so I basically learned the basic chords and strumming patterns all in one day. I started getting into the more complex stuff via Yousician or Youtube tutorials.”
“My history with the ukelele is literally the definition of starting something on a whim. I tend to play music when I am stressed out, but whenever my parents go to bed, I can’t play the piano because it will wake them up. One night back in September was especially bad, and suddenly I had this urge to go on Amazon and get myself a uke. So I did. I started out pretty bad, like really bad. The first song I tried to learn was hard (Cancer, the Twenty One Pilots rendition), and I bit off more than I could chew. I felt pretty frustrated, but then I tried a simpler song and watched the Ukulele Teacher’s videos, and suddenly it all sort of clicked. I have a nice strumming pattern that fits for most songs, and I learn about a song a week now.”