Antelope Valley Ukulele Festival Roundup

By Jim D’Ville // Photos by Tom Llewellyn

The annual Antelope Valley Ukulele Festival was held on the campus of Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, California, Saturday, October 14. Located in the Mojave Desert, northeast of Los Angeles, the festival is fast becoming known as one of southern California’s most popular ukulele events. But, according to festival producer Michael Lemos, the goal of the festival goes far beyond the one-day event.

“The mission of the Antelope Valley Ukes for Schools is to provide local elementary and middle school students the opportunity to have a music program that enriches and completes their educational experience. We are dedicated to bringing the joy of music to elementary and middle school aged children at no cost to the kids involved. We will supply ukuleles to schools, support a teacher or a member of the school’s community through training and workshops, and create opportunities for rehearsals and performances. Our main fundraiser is the Antelope Valley Ukulele Festival.”

In addition to teachers and performers from outside the area, this year’s festival also included the Sierra Elementary School Roadrunner Strummers from the Lancaster School District who performed during the Saturday evening concert. According to Lemos, “This is the school that started the ball rolling in the Antelope Valley. As a result of this year’s festival, we are now in the process of expanding our program to three schools in two additional local school districts.”


Pickin’ and grinnin’, Daniel Ward (left) and Heidi Swedberg at the Antelope Valley Ukulele Festival, 2017. Photo by Tom Llewellyn.

Heidi Swedberg, who along with Daniel Ward, has taught and performed at the festival the last two years says, “Michael and Nancy Lemos are the loveliest people on earth. When you talk to them about their Ukes for Schools program, they glow from within. What I love about smaller towns (and festivals) is the privilege of seeing how the community works together, and having the opportunity to join them for an important ritual. The Antelope Valley ukulele community rallies around the cause of sharing aloha. It is a loving place and their passion in providing ukuleles and instructions to school children is what makes this festival special.”

Antelope Valley Ukulele Festival, 2017. Photo by Tom Llewellyn.

Music educator and facilitator Jim D’Ville is on a mission to get ukulele players off the paper and into playing music by ear. Over the last six years he has taught his “Play Ukulele By Ear” workshops in the United States, Australia, and Canada. Jim is the author of the Play Ukulele By Ear DVD series and hosts the popular Play Ukulele By Ear website