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Viatorian Brother: Making Beautiful Music With Students

June 8, 2016

Br. John Eustice, CSV, already plays guitar and sometimes brings it out in his Campus Ministry office at Saint Viator High School, or on retreats.

Br. John Eustice, CSV, helps a student with stringing her ukulele

Br. John Eustice, CSV, helps a student with stringing her ukulele

This week, he is learning to add a new instrument to his repertoire: the ukulele.

Br. John is attending a ukulele camp at the school, offered by band director, Vince Genualdi. The class filled up immediately and drew a mix of junior high and current students, as well as a few adults.

They began the week by building their own ukulele, using pieces in a do-it-yourself kit, before painting and personalizing it and ultimately stringing the instrument.

Mr. Vince Genualdi, left, helps a student learn to string his ukulele, under the watchful eye of Br. John Eustice, CSV, right

Mr. Vince Genualdi, left, helps a student learn to string his ukulele, under the watchful eye of Br. John Eustice, CSV, right

The last two days were devoted to learning its easy chord structure and strumming out some familiar tunes.

Mr. Genualdi earned his degree in music education at the University of Illinois, where he was a tuba player and ultimately drum major for the Marching Illini. He also participated in a unique group started in 2002 by Assistant Music Education Prof. Matt Thibeault, called the Homebrewed Ukulele Union.

Its mission is to promote the ukulele, which is small and accessible enough for children, while offering a participatory music experience, where the line between listening and performing is blurred.

“It’s a pretty versatile instrument,” Mr. Genualdi says, “with a basic chord progression that is easy to learn.”

Br. John says he is enjoying the fact that he is learning about the instrument right along with the students.

“I think it’s great that these  kids want to put together their own instrument and then learn to play it,” Br. John said. “What a great way to start the summer — creatively.”