John holding a ukulele

John’s Legacy of Music

Marlén Rodriguez Wolfe

John holding a ukulele

At the UKC, we often take time to celebrate the children and their wonderful accomplishments in music therapy. But sometimes, I think it’s appropriate to also highlight some of the amazing supporters that make up our club. Today we celebrate the life and legacy of John Byfield. But John is a ukulele supporter who we never got to meet in person.

I learned about John’s wonderful work of sharing the ukulele with children in Mexico after he had passed away. John had created a program to teach children in a developing community how to play the ukulele. The classes were 1.5 hours for 8 days. The first day was just learning about the instrument, but by the 8th day, kids that had never played before were able to play 3 songs for their families. After he passed, his friend Barbara found us online and made a donation to sponsor the program he started in Mineral de Pozos. An online google search and a Rockstar donation are all it took to get us connected to this wonderful man.

After a brief chat with John’s widow Kate, I was honored to have been invited to attend his memorial service and see this wonderful program in person. My husband and I showed up as strangers and were welcomed as friends. We were moved by how many people shared about John’s life and impact. The children he taught performed for us, friends shared stories, we laughed and we even cried.

“How strange to cry for someone you never even met” I told my husband. But honestly, I felt like I did know him in that moment. We both shared a love for sharing the ukulele wth children….and that was enough.

During the service, his friend read from the Book of Odes by Horace. He read:

“Happy the man, and happy he alone, he who can call today his own:he who, secure within, can say, Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.

Be fair or foul, or rain or shine the joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine. Not Heaven itself, upon the past has power, but what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.”

With his family’s permission we share this story because John’s legacy of kindness and generosity far outlives him. The children he taught and the music they made will be remembered by many. The instruments he gifted and his wife continues to gift, will be played in families for years to come. John showed us that giving back is not only an admirable thing to do, it can be a way of life.  Kate continues to honor him through music by donating ukes for other children in need, taught by John’s teaching partner, Felipe Reissenweber.

Thank you for sharing the ukulele with these kids John, we hope you are proud of your legacy.f

Marlén Rodriguez Wolfe is a music therapist currently living in México. She holds a bachelor’s in Music Therapy from Berklee College of Music and a Master’s in Music Therapy from the University of Miami. She is currently CEO of the Ukulele Kids Club, a nonprofit that supports music therapy around the world and is the Co-Founder of the Latin American Music Therapy Network

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