Sarah McLachlan rocks the ukelele with students in Toronto

By Ava Baccari

Sarah McLachlan showed off her ukelele skills recently in support of fellow singer-songwriter Melanie Doane, whose Uschool program at the Wilkinson Public School helps to bring the gift of music to local students. The Grammy winner was on hand Wednesday (Nov. 18) to help present a cheque for $100,000, donated by Sun Life Financial. Juno winner Melanie, who has helmed the music program for seven years, also performed with students – with a little help from Barenaked Ladies’s Jim Creeggan and, of course, Sarah.

It also happened to be a full-circle moment for the “Building a Mystery” singer, as the ukelele was the very first instrument she was given at four years old and inspired her life-long passion for music. “I think it’s a Nova Scotian thing!” she told Hello! in a sit-down interview following the performance. “I was petitioning my mother really hard for a guitar. I wanted to be Joan Baez, just loving all these songs. We lived in a small community outside of Halifax, there was no guitar lessons to be had, plus I was tiny,” Sarah explained.

TAP THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE: Sarah McLachlan with Melanie and Paul, who was presenting a $100,000 donation to Uschool.

“And there was a little old lady who lived up the street … and she gave ukulele lessons. And it was a reasonably priced instrument, it wasn’t a big commitment, and so my mom allowed me to. I still, so clearly, have these images of walking up around the corner behind my house to her house to take lessons and just loving it. And loving that I could make these beautiful sounds,” Sarah said.

In 2001, she founded the Sarah McLachlan School of Music to provided after-school music education at no cost to at-risk students in Vancouver. “I’ve always felt a big sense of social responsibility. I think I have an amazing platform to do good.”

On Monday, Sarah announced that the school is accepting donations of gently used instruments – including ukuleles – so that her students can continue to practise at home. The month-long drive runs until Dec. 12, and is in partnership with CBC Music and Sun Life Financial’s Making the Arts More Accessible program. Sun Life will also match cash donations made during this time, with proceeds going to Sarah’s music school. Of giving back she said, “I recognized pretty early on how blessed and lucky I was in my life and it just made me want to do something to give back in gratitude.”

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