Ukulele can change lives

Lida Magnus (left) and Shannon Kao learn to play at the ukulele camp at Belmont Elementary on Tuesday.  - Natasha Jones/Langley Times
Lida Magnus (left) and Shannon Kao learn to play at the ukulele camp at Belmont Elementary on Tuesday.
— image credit: Natasha Jones/Langley Times

Sometimes an especially gifted teacher, a devoted parent, or chance encounter can lead a student to a vocation that seems made to measure.

In Sarah Skidmore’s case, it was the four-stringed ukulele which she first began to play in Grade 3. That was 12 years ago. Now 21, Skidmore is in the third year of a degree program that will lead her back to the classroom, teaching music to elementary school children.

She is a graduate of the world-renowned Langley Ukulele Ensemble, and left the musical group only recently.

The instrument has shaped her life.

“It showed me that my passion is teaching,” she said during a break on Tuesday at Belmont Elementary in Brookswood, where she had organized a ukulele camp with Caitlyn Lovett. Their paths met through the ukulele, and the two have become close friends.

“Making music has become such a passion in my life,” Skidmore commented, as she watched the effervescent Peter Luongo, the Langley Ukulele Ensemble’s music director, teach a class.

Relationships have formed and horizons expanded through the ukulele, giving Skidmore and the other musicians the opportunity to travel extensively to Hawaii, the U.S. and the east coast of Canada.

The week’s ukulele camp filled up without the need for advertising, she said, adding that at least half the 64 students had never held a ukulele before.

The young musicians take her back to her own beginnings with the instrument and she delights in their enthusiasm. She loves it when their faces light up after they have mastered something Luongo and the other teachers, including his son Paul Luongo, and Belmont  teacher Jamie Thomas, have taught.

Tomorrow (Friday), the children will play in a free concert for their families and friends at the school. The concert begins at 7 p.m.

The week-long camp also included a seminar for adults, teaching them how to teach the ukulele.

The Langley Ukulele Ensemble marks its 30th anniversary this year, and organizers are hoping past members will attend and perform at a reunion concert on Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Bell Centre in Surrey.

Tickets are available at For more details, go to,, or


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