In Bakersfield, California — birthplace of the honky-tonk country sound popularized by Buck Owens (he of the red, white, and blue acoustic guitar) and Merle Haggard — a retired music teacher is pumping new energy into elementary school music education.
How? By bringing ukuleles into the classroom.
Kevin Birkbeck, who taught music for 40 years, introduced ukes to children in a Panama Buena Vista School District classroom nine years ago; the program has since expanded from one school to ten.
According to Kern County TV news reporter Christina Lopez at KGET:
The growth of the program, now at 2,000 students throughout the district, [was] made possible after Birkbeck reached out to ukulele manufacturer Kala music brand, who donated 160 brand new ukuleles at the beginning of the year.
You can also watch Lopez’s video report at the KGET site.
Bakersfield legends Buck and Merle would be proud. And to honor them and the Bakersfield music program in one fell swoop, here’s a clip of Youtube sensation and funnywoman Danielle Ate the Sandwich covering Haggard’s Bakersfield classic “Mama Tried” — on a uke.