Your Cart UMS

The Small Instrument with the Big Sound

Let’s Learn about the Uke

The ukulele is most associated with the Hawaiian islands, but its roots can be traced back to another island, the island of Madeira, off the coast of Portugal. The machête, a small four-stringed instrument and precursor to the ukulele, made its way to Hawaii as thousands of Madeirans immigrated to work in the sugar cane fields. Musicians sang and played the machête in the evening to entertain one another. In 1879, Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias, and José do Espírito Santo, arrived in Hawaii from Madeira are believed to have been the first makers of the Hawaiian ukulele.

Join UMS artist facilitator and founder of the Brain Plasticity Ukulele Collective Mike Brooks as he leads us on a musical introduction and teaches us some basic chords to play. So get out your ukulele, warm up your fingers, and get ready to pluck some strings!

To learn even more about the history of the ukulele and the growth of its popularity, explore the accompanying slides and worksheets.

Recommended Ages

Grades 5-9 (ages 10-14)

Accompanying Presentation

View on Google Slides or download as a PDF

PDF Worksheets


Design a Ukulele

The Story You Hear


About the Artist

Mike BrooksMike Brooks, born in London, England 1962. Mike began playing the uke at the age of 5 and the guitar shortly thereafter, and formed his own band as a teenager and began performing in the pubs and clubs in London at the age of 16. Early influences were Marc Bolan and T Rex, Status Quo and AC/DC, Ry Cooder and all the old school blues artists, in particular Elmore James and Muddy Waters. Mike ran a Youth Music Project in the UK called Electric896, teaching ‘rock’n’roll’ to young people in the UK – how to play the guitar, the bass, the uke, drums, piano and sing etc. How to form a band, write and record songs and help the formative young bands to produce their own albums and gig their ‘sound’ into a viable proposition. The project remains the longest running youth music project in the history of the British Youth Service. Hundreds of young people were given a chance to give voice to their own unique expression and Prince Charles even visited way back before he became King.

Mike moved to the USA about 16 years ago (to play the blues) and eventually formed the Brain Plasticity Ukulele Collective. The collective is intergenerational – with members ranging from the age of 17 to 89 years young and old playing together. With the professional musicians from Mike’s bluesband and background sitting in with folks from all ages now learning the ukulele. Brain Plasticity Ukulele Collective regularly perform at Top of The Par, play the Ark, the Ann Arbor Art Fair and have released 2 albums in the past 5 years. Mike blues band, now stretching back to over 35 years in its longevity, has many albums in its back catalog. Mike teaches guitar, uke, music theory and improvisation.