Since Spring 2017, we have collaborated with James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, to provide instruments for JMUke, a community-based music group that engages JMU students and community members in participatory-based music making, music learning, and community development. Undergraduate students have built more than two dozen Youkuleles and facilitated events in venues including a children’s museum, a brewery, a bicycle shop, and a university library.
“Building Youkuleles in classes I facilitated at JMU has had positive impact on not only the students in these classes, but also community members. Students who might have never built something, beyond LEGO kits, are literally making music through building an instrument. Through this, I’ve seen students become more inquisitive about other instruments. Building an instrument for themselves, or for community members, has also given students a different motivation and care for the building process. They are driven to build and finish an instrument for themselves and/or for others, be that community members of for their parents. Taking completed Youkuleles out into the community, students have been able to chat with community members about what it is like to make an instrument (e.g., skills, knowledges, and tools they have interacted with and through). In these discussions, you can often see a spark ignite in the eyes of community members as they soon ask, “Well, can I build one?” This interest, in building and having control over an artistic tool at one’s disposal, has helped students, community members, and myself see the important role that making and building can have in contemporary music education.”
- Jesse Rathgeber, Director of JMUke and Assistant Professor of Music, James Madison University