FARMINGTON — Michael Burd’s adult education class, Ukulele 101, offers students more than just instructions on how to play the instrument.

It’s also about having fun, overcoming barriers and finding a sense of fellowship and community, Burd said.

Burd, who teaches a life skills program and is a technology integrator for Mt. Blue RSD Adult and Community Education, is also a professional musician. He plays bass with David Mallett, Noel Paul Stookey and others, combining the best of two careers.

But he found a need to redefine what community means to him. Gone were the days of attending events based on his children’s activities and he was missing that social interaction, he said.

Last fall, he started a four-week course, Ukulele 101, with four students, one in high school, another in college and two more-mature adults. They enjoyed their learning so much that the four-week course became eight.

The younger students realized the need for social interaction beyond what’s found through technology, one adult had received a ukulele as a gift and the other wanted to play along with other family members, he said.

Burd begins another four week session from 7 to 8 p.m. on March 2 in Mt. Blue Middle School’s orchestra space.

Experience is not necessary, students may have never even picked one up. Owning a ukulele isn’t necessary either. Some are available for borrowing and can be purchased, he said. It’s open to ages 14 and up.

Students learn enough basics the first night to play “Happy Birthday.” The course also teaches how to obtain royalty-free resources on the Web.

With an interest in music as a child, Burd started with a guitar then learned bass and after a move to California, realized he needed to balance his work with a creative compound, something that he got through music. He moved to Industry in 1980.

An old battered ukulele purchased for a $2 at a yard sale years ago was rediscovered as he moved items for renovations to his home.

“It was sad and pathetic just half a notch above what I’d call kindling,” he said.

He took it to a friend to rebuild, one knowledgeable about ukuleles. The friend was able to date it back to New York City in the early 1920s.

He then taught himself to play, he said while strumming “My Dog Has Fleas.”

“With one finger, one string you can play the happiest chord in the world, the chord C,” Burd said.

Many songs can be played based on just three chords but people think “I can’t do that or I’m not musical,” he said.

As in his life skills class, based on a goal of empowering students, part of the ukulele class is overcoming those barriers, building confidence while having fun. It’s not about telling students what to do but instead to encourage them to try this or that, he said.

“The ukulele has a long history. It was popular with Vaudeville players who were often characterized as comedians. Tiny Tim (who used a ukulele in the 1960s) was seen as a sad clown but he was a scholar of music as a whole,” he said, explaining how the ukulele is used in jazz and classical music.

Ukuleles have made a return with ukulele clubs developing nationally and internationally, he said.

The Adult and Community Education program strives to offer a variety of fun, basic classes based on people’s talents or requests for classes, Paul Brown, program coordinator, said. More than 1,000 community members attend classes ranging from art to cooking to technology basics each year. A website,, and Facebook account offer easy access to what the adult ed program has to offer.

Openings are available for Ukulele 101 and more information is available by calling 778-3460.

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