Ukulele class, Haverhill, NH I Tiny Village Music
Music Education, Play The Ukulele!, Ukulele Performance

Ukulele Wherever You Are

In 2017, I got to design a course to teach older adults how to play the ukulele, thanks to a grant from Aroha Philanthropies, awarded to the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council in partnership with the Arts Alliance Of Northern New Hampshire. I had fallen in love with the instrument in part because of the community of players. The ukulele seems to inspire social connection. In recent years, ukulele groups have become popular across North America, and every group I have interacted with is warm and inviting. I project those qualities onto the instrument, and it’s fitting. The ukulele is small and easy to hold, and it doesn’t take much skill to start producing pleasant sounds.

When I became aware of a grant to bring arts programming with an emphasis on social engagement to older adults in Northern New Hampshire, there was no question in my mind that the ukulele would be a perfect fit. In the fall of 2017, I presented the 8 part course to students in Littleton, NH. The students came with diverse backgrounds and abilities, but most of the challenge came from managing expectations.

Ukulele class, Haverhill, NH I Tiny Village Music

Children are in a constant state of learning, so being presented with new concepts that may take a little time to grasp is normal, expected. As adults, we have passed the stage of learning, and we have degrees and careers to prove it. When we are presented with something new that can take time to accomplish, it can feel frustrating. We are grownups and we should know how to do things. An objective glance should quickly disprove that idea, but it’s hard to shake the emotion. On many occasions, students would say, “I can play these chords alright, but this one just isn’t happening. I don’t know if I’ll ever get it.”
My go to response:

“How long have you been playing the ukulele?”

“Two weeks.”

“I think you’re doing very well and you’re on the right track. Be patient.”

The ukulele is indeed easy to learn, but it’s not without its challenges, and it is certainly not easy to master. However, the basics are relatively simple, and by the end of the course, students had learned a handful of songs to perform at the culminating event, where they shared their experience of the course.

The program was successful, and I returned to Northern New Hampshire in the fall of 2018, this time to offer three classes in two locations, Lebanon, NH, and Haverhill, NH. I also got to work with groups outside of the program, including an introductory class for students of all ages and a sort of “part 2” class for students from the 2017 Littleton group. Teaching has always been an essential part of my life, but these ukulele courses have been truly rewarding. Hanging out in a room full of people who are excited and passionate about music is my happy place. The ukulele is uniquely able to facilitate communities of musicians of all levels, from those who don’t really think of themselves as musicians, to the seasoned professionals. We learn from each other, we encourage each other, and we are better because of it.

I develop connections with students over the two months we have together in these courses. We can still keep in touch online, and I offer lessons via Skype, but I can’t be there in the way I was. Unless…

I’ve been thinking about developing an online ukulele course for some time, and based on a lot of positive feedback, I’m finally diving in. I’m hunkered down in New Mexico as I write this, compiling and arranging materials I’ve created over the years, tempering them with all the lessons I’ve learned as a private instructor, and especially from the ukulele courses I developed for New Hampshire. I am excited to share this with you.

If you’d like an update when the class is ready, you can reach out to me at with the subject Ukulele Course.

Music Education, Play The Ukulele!, Ukulele Performance

A Mini-Documentary on Ross Airs Tonight!

This year Tiny Village Music is expanding its offerings online and in person, and we’re offering our acclaimed Play the Ukulele! classes for older adults across the country!

In the fall of 2017, Ross was asked to teach a ukulele class for older adults. It was such an incredible success that in the fall of 2018, he was asked to teach the same program with three different groups of students.

If you’re curious about what this program looks like, join us for the premiere of this five minute video TONIGHT, LIVE at 7:15 p.m. Eastern Time! And if that time doesn’t work for you, stop by any time after that and you’ll be able to watch too.

Want to see and hear more about Tiny Village Music events, including an online course on how to play the ukulele? Consider subscribing to our new Youtube channel! Or send us a message at to get added to our email list. You can also learn more about the group ukulele program for older adults here.


Music Education, Practice Tips

Developing Great Practice Habits

Anyone who picks up an instrument probably has some ambitious expectations about what they’re going to play. That is awesome and keeping those big goals in mind can be a good thing. But there are branches off the road to those goals that can lead to discouragement. With that in mind, I want to talk about practice habits and expectations of our practice.

Structure Your Practice Sessions

Most of us don’t have as much time as we’d like to practice. That just means we have to make the most of the time that we do have. Maybe you can only squeeze in 20 minutes of practice a day. Rather than sifting through your notes, playing a little of this and a little of that, having a schedule will help you focus on spending that 20 minutes wisely. For example, 5 minutes warming up with scales, 5 minutes practicing technique, 5 minutes working on your main goal song, and 5 minutes of free play to wind down. Use a timer! It’s amazing how fast 20 minutes flies by and it’s not uncommon to run out of time before you’ve even started!

Don’t Compare Yourself To People On The Internet

I have students who will tell me about someone they saw online playing the song they are currently working on SO FAST or simply WITHOUT A MISTAKE. YouTube is a fantastic resource for tutorials, examples, or just to see what people are capable of achieving. It can be inspiring if you have a “if they can do it, so can I” attitude. But sometimes when we’re struggling with a piece, watching people “show off” can be frustrating. We can’t forget that other people also have to practice and most people aren’t on YouTube showing you how many times they had to play that measure to get it perfect. We don’t all learn at the same pace and if you only have 20 MINUTES a day to practice you can’t hold yourself to the same standard as someone who practices 4 HOURS a day. It’s easy to tell this to ourselves but that alone may not relieve the impulse. Be aware of yourself and take note of what helps and what just bums you out. And that brings us to:

Celebrate Your Accomplishments

You are awesome. You work hard at your craft, always looking for new ways to improve your musical competency because you know that learning never stops. That doesn’t mean we can’t occasionally celebrate the work we’ve done thus far. Go back through your notes, or into a previous lesson book. Find a piece that looks easy now but you remember at the time how intimidating it was. Crush that song. Feel it bend to your whim, swing it where it was never meant to be swung, throw in some embellishments on the repeat because it would be utterly boring if you didn’t. How far you’ve come. This is cake and it’s delicious. And that song you’re working on now? The big one with all those flats? Pretty soon that song will be cake too. It just needs a little more time.

Florence Beatrice Price photo | Tiny Village Music
Ukulele Performance

Florence Beatrice Price

Continuing the series of ukulele arrangements by Ross Malcolm Boyd for Black History Month, here is the next video.

Florence Beatrice Price was an American composer, born in Little Rock, Arkansas on April 9, 1887. Her mother was a music teacher who helped guide Florence’s early musical education. Her first composition was published at age 11, and only a few years later she was enrolled at the New England Conservatory, majoring in piano and organ.

Due to the attitude toward African-Americans at the time, Price pretended to be Mexican. In 1906 she graduated with honors. After winning first prize in the Wanamaker Foundation Awards in 1932 for her Symphony in E Minor, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered the piece in 1933.

This would establish Florence B. Price as the first African-American woman to have a composition played (not to mention premiered!) by a major orchestra.

Samuel_Coleridge-Taylor, Tiny Village Music
Ukulele Performance

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

In honor of Black History Month, Ross’ weekly ukulele video series (follow Tiny Village Music or Ross Malcolm Boyd on Facebook to keep up with these) features Ross’ arrangements of musical selections by black composers.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a British composer, born in London on August 15, 1875. His father was a physician from Sierra Leone who, unable to pursue a career in Britain presumably due to racial prejudice, returned to West Africa, leaving behind his wife and son.

As a child, Samuel played the violin and sang with the choir of a church in Croydon. He was admitted to the Royal College of Music in 1890. A professor at the college, in teaching Coleridge-Taylor the music of Brahms, suggested that it would be impossible to write a quintet for clarinet and strings without being influenced by Brahms’s composition for that combination of instruments. Coleridge-Taylor took the assertion as a challenge and produced a work that received the respect of his professor and later audiences.

By 1896 he was teaching, conducting, and judging music festivals in addition to composing. His work was very well regarded, the most successful of which was The Hiawatha Trilogy (based on the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra: Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast (1898), The Death of Minnehaha (1899), and Hiawatha’s Departure (1900). Europe wasn’t the only place Coleridge-Taylor found success. He was welcomed during his tours of the US between 1904 and 1910. American musicians dubbed him the “Black Mahler.” He was invited to the White House to visit President Theodore Roosevelt.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, only 37 years old, died of pneumonia on September 1, 1912. He was survived by his wife, Jessie Walmisley, his son, Hiawatha, and his daughter, Gwendolyn, known as Avril.

Hear Ross’ ukulele arrangement of a selection from Coleridge-Taylor here.

#ukulele #ukulelesunday #blackcomposers#blackhistorymonth #samuelcoleridgetaylor#willowsong