Michael Nguyen: Spreading the ukulele love

Vietnamese undergraduate Nguyen Dang Quang Minh, also known as Michael Nguyen, taught himself how to play the ukulele four years ago and now helps others appreciate what he calls “an instrument of joy.” Residential Life spoke with Michael after the ukulele workshop he conducted for NUS residents last Tuesday at Prince George’s Park Residences (PGPR).

“It’s such a cheerful instrument,” said Michael. “You cannot feel sad when you play it.”

The ukulele is a four-string instrument popular in Hawaii. Its name translates to “jumping flea” in the local language and describes the passionate motions of a user’s fingers when he or she plays the instrument.

michael 1

Michael and his ukulele | Courtesy Michael Nguyen

Michael, a Year 2 Project and Facilities Management undergraduate, took time off from his busy schedule and gave a group of 36 residents a 100 MIN crash course on how to play the ukulele.

PGPR Resident Assistants and Advisors who have been taught by Michael separately before the workshop were also present to assist the participants.



Michael shared that he came upon the ukulele almost by accident.

“I used to play keyboard in Vietnam. But when I moved here, there was no instrument in the room for me to play,” he said.

Around the same time, one of Michael’s seniors was planning a project to teach children at a shelter how to play the ukulele. After the project, the senior gave him his ukulele.

“That’s when I learned, and I learned to love it a lot,” he enthused.


Unwinding with music

When the stresses of school get to him, Michael turns to his ukulele.

“I keep it close to where I sit, so I can just play for 1-2 hours before resuming my work,” he said. “I play mostly at night…I’m surprised that no one has reported me yet!”

He humbly said that he only plays for leisure because his level is “not at that level to perform yet.”

We beg to differ. Michael expertly performed a few cheery song numbers at the beginning of his workshop, setting a great mood that lasted throughout the entire event.



Michael teaching the students Ukulele 101

Ukulele practice

Residents getting familiar with their ukuleles.


Sharing his gift

Michael is also passionate about sharing his love for music. Before, he gathered a small group of friends who already knew a thing or two about music and taught them how to play the ukulele.

This time, he volunteered to share his passion to a bigger audience by signing up to be a student instructor for 100MIN.

Residential Life’s 100 MIN programme provides free enrichment activities for residents that last, well, around 100 minutes (about two hours). These enrichment activities include physical activities, music and art lessons, or excursions around Singapore.

Usually, the programmes are helmed by outside vendors. But this school year, Residential Life invited talented students to share their passions to their community.

Michael, driven by a genuine love for the instrument and the happiness it brings, jumped at the opportunity.

“There’s a famous ukulele musician who said, ‘If everyone picked up a ukulele and played, the world will be a happier place. You cannot feel sad when you hear the song’,” he said, smiling.

Ukulele workshop participants

The participants of the ukulele workshop with Michael and the organisers.


Do you have a growing interest or a burning passion you wish to share with like-minded people? We have a platform just for you in the 100MIN Enrichment Series – you can be just like Michael. Write to us at reslife@nus.edu.sg and let’s talk.

Anna Villarica

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