Spring 2017 Ukulele Events: Festivals, Cruises & More


Caribbean Ukulele Cruise

February 10–19, 2017 | Sailing from New Orleans
Banish winter blues aboard this cruise. Spend nine days in the Caribbean luxuriating on the Carnival Dream. Scuba dive in warm, inviting waters, and make time, or course, to hone your ukulele skills with the two hosts—well-known master uke players and personalities Lil’ Rev and Stu Fuchs. They will fill the three “sea days” with ukulele workshops, jam sessions, private concerts, and all fun things ukulele. Ports of call include Ochos Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Cozumel, Mexico. Before the cruise, participants will spend two nights in New Orleans, staying at the Chateau LeMoyne Boutique Hotel in the French Quarter. On Saturday afternoon, Stu Fuchs will lead a walking tour of the French Quarter. Those yearning to experience Fat Tuesday in New Orleans can watch two Mardi Gras parades on the Saturday evening. Click here for more details.


February 17–24, 2017 | Hotel Capri, Havana, Cuba
¡Hola! Flying Olive Adventures has organized an eight-day/seven-night “Ukulele and Cultural Exchange Adventure” on the island that, until recently, was out of bounds to U.S. citizens. Participants will take a guided tour of Old Havana’s famous plazas and several historic architectural sites and art galleries. On the musical side, they will also attend jazz and salsa concerts and have a chance to meet local musicians. Excursions outside the capital are arranged to the beautiful rural valley town of Viñales, and to multicultural Trinidad. The package includes airfare from Miami and back, museum entrance fees, all breakfasts and lunches, island transportation, and more. Note that Cubalele will not offer structured ukulele workshops, but there will be jamming opportunities, some of them with Cuban musicians. More information is posted on the Flying Olive Facebook page or contact Lynette of Flying Olive Adventures at LBColosimo@aol.com.

3rd Annual Palm Strings Uke Festival

February 23–25, 2017| Hilton Palm Springs, California
The fun begins Thursday afternoon with a poolside party accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Michael Powers and friends. For those eager to hunker down and hone their uke skills, there are also “early bird” workshops on opening day. Headlining the roster of uke luminaries is outstanding teacher and performer James Hill, who will play at the finale concert Saturday night accompanied by cellist Anne Janelle. On Friday, expect a solid load of workshops between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Additional workshop leaders include jazz-ukulele performer Abe Lagrimas Jr., Stuart Fuchs (known for mystical leanings and interpretations of Django Reinhardt pieces), engaging singer-songwriter Victoria Vox with guitarist Jack Maher, who bill their collaboration as “Jack and the Vox” and will give a concert Friday night. To round out the roster, long-time music educator Peter Luongo (“Awaken the Musician Within!”) teaches workshops and leads his Northern Luongo Ukulele Experience Ensemble. Click here for more information.

Vancouver Ukulele Festival

March 3–5, 2017 | Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
This event might interest ukers living in the Pacific Northwest. It’s happening at Ruby’s Ukes Ukulele Studio, perhaps the largest ukulele school outside of Hawaii, located in the historic Seymour Building in downtown Vancouver. The festival promises instruction in “all things ukulele” with special sessions devoted to jazz, swing, and blues. The instructor lineup includes some familiar U.S. uke stars—Sarah Maisel, Craig Chee, Gerald Ross, and Aaron & Nicole Keim. Canadian uke royalty include Ruby’s founder-director Daphne Roubini, Andrew Smith, and Ralph Shaw. In addition, there will be lunchtime open-mics, jamming opportunities, and the 70-member Ruby’s Ukulele Orchestra. An exhibitor showcase will be available for attendees to explore. rubysukes.ca

Uke Ohaha Molokai

March 17–21, 2017 | Molokai, Hawaii
Happening at the Pu’u O Hoku Ranch, which is surrounded by over 14,000 acres of protected land, and the mesmerizing Halawa Valley, Uke Ohana is five-days of playing, learning, and exploring the ukulele, old Hawaiian culture, and the glorious island of Molokai. Organized by Melany Berry, who also runs the Tunes in the Dunes event in costal Oregon, Uke Ohana combines cultural events, with workshops taught by local musician Lono and Sarah Maisel and Craig Chee. For those interested in a cultural and musical immersion into “old style” Hawaiian music, a second event is scheduled, May 26–30, 2017. ukeohana.com

Menucha Ukulele Band Camp

March 27–31, 2017 | Portland, Oregon
Scenic, secluded Menucha Retreat and Conference Center is the site of a uke camp open to advanced beginners, intermediate students and advanced players. Gaze on mountains sloping down into the crystal waters of the Columbia Gorge, enjoy forest hiking trails, and rest in comfy accommodations in buildings harmonious with their natural surroundings.

In five days and four nights, participants will receive instruction from star teacher-performer James Hill, accompanied in performance by cellist Anne Janelle. Other instructors include Texas-based “ed-UKE-ator” Kevin Carroll, blues-uke master Del Rey, and Aaron Keim, who specializes is old-time American music; think claw-hammer ukulele. Choral warm-ups, whole-group jams, plenty of snack times, and concerts will foster an ambiance of fellowship. Click here for more information.

Festival at Sea: Ukuleles Along the Sea of Cortez

March 28–April 7, 2017 | Sailing from Los Angeles
More cruise news! The uke world’s dynamic-duo, Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel, will host the fourth annual ukulele voyage to the Baja Peninsula and Sea of Cortez on the Star Princess. Chee, Maisel, and special guest instructors Milo Fultz and Kalei Gamiao will give workshops, offer private lessons upon request, hold jams, and perform in mini-concerts during this ten-day cruise. The Princess stops in Cabo San Lucas, where, amid scenic vistas, voyagers can watch for gray, blue, and humpback whales. Next port is historic La Paz and a fascinating visit to the Regional Anthropology and History Museum. Finally, in Puerto Vallarta, participants will be able to stroll along the charming El Malecón beachfront, visit the array of shops that face the river, and sample seafood specialties and local beer. montecitovillagetravel.com/fourth-annual-ukulele-cruise-mexico

Reno Ukulele Festival

April 6–9, 2017 | Nugget Resort, Sparks, Nevada
This fest promises multiple workshops at various levels on all three days and a huge vendor marketplace. Nurtured from a small-town gathering to a major regional festival by Ukulele Café, organizers of the Palm Strings Uke Fest, Reno’s event features three of the teacher-performers from Palm Strings—jazz ukulele master Abe Lagrimas Jr., Michael Powers (notable for “urban jazz ukulele”), and inspiring educator Peter Luongo. Additional instructors include Gerald Ross, as acclaimed for his Hawaiian-style steel guitar playing as for his island uke sound, Steve Espaniola, known for a Hawaiian nahe-nahe (gentle) style playing, and Faith Ako, who brings a contemporary twist to island tunes. Also on hand will be the “Play Uke by Ear” instructor Jim D’Ville, and music educator/vocalist Dani Joy (AKA Danielle Herreid), who will teach beginner-level students. The antics of Victor & Penny (Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane) and their Loose Change Orchestra promise sidesplitting entertainment. Click here for more information.

GNUF: Great Northern Ukulele Festival

May 5-7, 2017 | Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England


One of the biggest ukulele festivals anywhere returns to West Yorkshire for its fifth year. Most of the workshops and performances will happen at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield, but expect the party to continue at a few locations around town. At the time of this writing organizers are expecting dozens of performers, including Victoria Vox, Eat.My.Uke, Astraluna, Opera-leleAndy Eastwood, and current Guinness World Record holder Robin Evans Esq. Keep an eye on the website because the list of artists keeps on growing. Performances will happen across at least four stages, Mim’s, Unplugthewood, Original Ukulele Songs, and Ukulele Cabaret (hosted by Tricity Vogue). northernuke.com

West Coast Ukulele Retreat

May 17–21, 2017 | Asilomar, California
The Golden State’s gorgeous Monterey Peninsula is the site for this seventh annual gathering of ukulele-minded students, teachers, and performers. While the website promises workshops led by “some of the most notable ukulele instructors in the world,” and a culminating band night and student cabaret, it is short on specifics as we go to press. Stay tuned by checking westcoastukuleleretreat.com.

Las Cruces Ukefest

May 19–21, 2017 | Las Cruces, New Mexico

Big sky, immense red rock formations, rosy sunsets. Tune your senses and your uke to Kokopelli country. Making their New Mexico teaching debut are Jim and Liz Beloff, famous for their popular “Jumpin’ Jim” series of ukulele songbooks, and indie singer, songwriter, and uker Danielle Ate The Sandwich (aka Danielle Anderson). On the other hand, sought-after instructor and performer Heidi Swedberg has immersed herself in the Land of Enchantment’s marvels. Guitarist and teacher Daniel Ward is steeped in the traditional music of his native New Mexico and beyond. UkeFest highlights include a Friday evening concert by the workshop leaders, Saturday evening jam session, and Sunday morning “Gospel According to Uke” sing-along. It all takes place at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, a fascinating collection of indoor and outdoor exhibits to explore between musical activities. Participants will stay at The Hilton Garden Inn, located about a mile from the Museum. lascrucesukefest.com

Ukulele Expo Cruise

May 19–22, 2017 | Sailing from Long Beach, California
Choose your cruise! This one is a quickie—four days and three nights aboard the Carnival Inspiration sailing round-trip from Long Beach, California, to Ensenada, Mexico. The host is Jason Arimoto, the engaging blues-infused uke player and gifted teacher who manages U-Space, the unique café-uke store in downtown Los Angeles. While sailing to the charming northern coastal town of Ensenada and back, participants will have access to structured classes, jam sessions, and open-mic time. Additionally, expect a welcome cocktail party, contests, hula lessons, event t-shirts, and a music vendor gallery. This floating resort also offers pools, spa, gym, restaurants, lounges, open decks, and shipboard entertainment. tickettocruise.com/2016-ukulele-expo-cruise


Oregon Play Your Ukulele Day

May 20–21, 2017 | Salem, Oregon

Does it get more official than this? In 2016, Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared May 20 Oregon Play Your Ukulele Day. For its first anniversary, UFO (Ukulele Fans of Oregon) has organized 90-minute master classes between 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The instructors are workshop leaders par excellence Sarah Maisel and Craig Chee, Maui-born ukulele player Neal Chin, who has taught in Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington State, and Laurie Lynn, Portland-based uker, singer, and artist. Later Saturday afternoon, the instructors will perform for participants and the public. After the concert, the UFO Trio will lead a sing-and-play-along. On Sunday afternoon, all are welcome to attend the regular monthly meeting of Ukulele Fans of Oregon, beginning at 1:30 pm. The venue: Salem Public Library on Liberty Street. ukulelefansoforegon.com


Ashokan Uke Fest

May 26–29, 2017 | Catskill Mountains, New York
Take a learning vacation at the picturesque 385-acre Ashokan Center, where a mighty assembly of uke teacher-performers will gather under the leadership of festival organizer and roots music master Gerald Ross; James Hill with cellist and spouse Anne Janelle, eclectic uker-songwriter and educator Ben Hassinger, Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalists Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, and entertaining teacher Jim D’Ville. Expect workshops for all proficiency levels, concerts, dancing, and jam sessions. Furthermore, the website promises delicious meals, including dinner on Friday, three meals on Saturday and Sunday, and brunch on Monday. Beverages will be available around the clock and sumptuous late night snacks will be unmissable. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free diets will be accommodated. With such a surfeit of activities and food, it might be advisable to sneak away for at least one scenic hike. ashokan.org/uke-fest

Uke Ohana Molokai

May 26–30, 2017 | Molokai, Hawaii

Happening at the Pu’u O Hoku Ranch, which is surrounded by over 14,000 acres of protected land, and the mesmerizing Halawa Valley, Uke Ohana is five-days of playing, learning, and exploring the ukulele, old Hawaiian culture, and the glorious island of Molokai. Organized by Melany Berry, who also runs the Tunes in the Dunes event in costal Oregon, Uke Ohana combines cultural events, with workshops taught by local musician Lono, who will lead the immersion “old style” Hawaiian music with local singers, dancers, and musicians. ukuohana.com

Camp Oo-Koo-Lay-Lay

May 31–June 4, 2017 | Napa Valley, California

It’s ukulele summer camp, complete with tent living at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, a redwood-populated park within in scenic Napa Valley wine country. The formal schedule will include one or two daily workshops, leaving room for activities generated during the camp such as sessions on requested topics, jam sessions, or even games. A new schedule will be posted each morning with “blanks” to be filled in by instructors or students. Open mic and talent show performances are planned. Special events include a “Really Bad Country Western Song” jam, chili cook-off, flash mob, swap meet, and “Poolside Follies.” Add to that, prizes for such achievements as “best decorated tent or campsite” and “best sun hat worn at the Poolside Follies.” At publication time, Rhan Wilson and Rick Zeek, musicians based in the Santa Cruz community, and Dave Egan, ukulele instructor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, were confirmed workshop leaders. More instructors will be confirmed once the organizers have finalized Camp Oo-Koo-Lay-Lay registration. campookoolaylay.wordpress.com