“I wanted to learn the ukulele and I couldn’t find anyone who was doing group classes. I started the school because there wasn’t one,” explains Daphne Roubini. Daphne founded her ukulele school, Ruby’s Ukes, in Vancouver B.C. three years ago. Since then, the school has grown from 10 students in a beginner’s course to 130 students in beginner, intermediate and advanced classes. There’s also an alumni performance group, the Ukesters, that has been invited to play at this year’s “The Word on the Street” festival in Vancouver.
Daphne researched and recruited an instructor to teach the first class, while she focused on organizing, marketing, and promoting the courses, and finding a venue—her husband’s recording studio—for the school. She successfully developed the programming for the school with the added perspective of being a student herself. She is particularly aware of “what the pitfalls of learning are as adults. I understood the psychology of what it means being a student going back to school.” Before she began teaching classes herself, Ruby would observe a class while the instructor taught it. If she noticed a student was having a difficult time, she’d approach him during the break to support him. Daphne says that by truly listening to her students’ questions and feelings, she was able to make changes to perfect the class.
Daphne attributes the school’s success to her willingness to adapt the program. She explains, “I’m innovating all the time. You have to be prepared and confident to change. You can never be copied then. It always has to be changing and morphing and being unique.”
There is one aspect of the school Daphne does not plan to change: the tea break. Each hour and a half class has a tea break halfway through, complete with tea, cookies, fruit, and nuts. This gives the students an opportunity to discuss what they’re learning, and build relationships with one another. These friendships encourage students to return to the class, since it makes learning much more fun. Moreover, in today’s technology-centric world, “People are yearning for community. The school meets that need. I believe it’s a very, very basic human instinct to make music together.”
At Ruby’s Ukes, music brings people together. Each course ends with a “mini concert,” where each student has the opportunity to share a piece. Daphne’s most memorable teaching moment was at one of these concerts. A student opened her performance by explaining, “My mom died young. She used to sing me this song when I was sitting on her piano stool. And I couldn’t play music before but now that I can play the ukulele I can play this song.” Daphne describes the experience of the student playing the ukulele and singing the song as “the most beautiful moment. The class was almost in tears it was so beautiful.”
If you’d like to see more of what Ruby’s Ukes has to offer, you can see a full list of classes and workshops here: http://www.eventbrite.com/org/938758631