GATESVILLE — Third-grader Lindsey Cummings was surrounded by her peers as they gathered at the entrance of Christeena Sweeney’s classroom.
One-by-one Sweeney, an art and music teacher at Gatesville Elementary School, tuned about 60 students’ instruments before the school’s ukulele club started its weekly Wednesday rehearsal.
“My favorite part about playing (in) ukulele club is having fun with my friends and being here with Ms. Sweeney,” Lindsey said. “We get to play awesome songs that Ms. Sweeney picks and it’s really fun that we get to go to concerts.”
Sweeney decided to start the club after a co-worker gave her a ukulele about three years ago.
At the time, Sweeney looked at it and thought, “I don’t know how to play this.” She placed the tiny instrument on a shelf and tried to go on with her day. But her eyes were fixated on it.
“All day that ukulele kept staring at me so I was like, ‘OK, let me bring that thing home,’” Sweeney said. “I took it home and I just became obsessed with learning how to play the ukulele. I would stay up until 3 or 4 at night just learning how to play.”
The club is composed of the school’s third-graders.
“It’s just kind of expanded and blown up more than I ever thought it would,” she said. “The first club I think we had maybe 30 kids, and the next year we had 60 and it’s just kind of blown up.”
Third-grader Thiele Alvarado joined the club this year and said, “I like playing ukulele because it’s really fun.”
Sweeney said the ukulele is perfect for younger students who want to learn how to play a string instrument.
“It’s their size and there’s only four strings, so it’s not as overwhelming (and huge) for them,” said Sweeney, comparing it to a six-stringed guitar. “Some of them play really, really well and are very talented and some of them can’t play very well, but I take all of them. Everybody’s welcome because they feel like they’re a part of something.”
Sweeney said teaching and listening to students play during the club is one of her favorite parts of the week.
“I can have a bad day at home or anywhere else, but anytime I’m at work, I just have such a good day,” she said.
“They’re just precious. I just love being around the kids.”
Although Lindsey said learning to play a new instrument was hard, she has advice for students who want to join.
“Try your hardest and never give up,” she said.