Uke Events Spring 2020 March-June


March 20–22 | Gaithersburg, Maryland
Headlining the event is ukulele master Lil’ Rev, acclaimed not only for his unique stylings of blues and other roots genres, but for storytelling that conveys the vitality of Americana. Among the performers also on the festival’s ample faculty roster are Kevin Carroll, Fred “Phredd” McNaughton, Uncle Zac, “Tennessee Ukulele Lady” Kelle Jolly, harp-ukulele player Gracie Terzian, and virtuoso of the Venezuelan cuatro (a four-nylon-string instrument) Luis Tolosa. In addition, several workshops and their leaders reflect the ukulele’s Hawaiian heritage. Hawaii-born, longtime Nevada residents Gary and Sheldeen Haleamau, have worked with the Nevada Arts Council to preserve the cultural heritage of the state’s large Hawaiian population. Debi Velasco will lead workshops in hula, flower lei making, and ribbon lei making. Oahu native William Ernestburg performs with the hula group Halau O’Aulani. Pete Coleson plays drums and ukulele in Maryland-based Hawaiian cultural school Halau Nohona Hawaii. Festival co-founder Nani Lowery teaches Hawaiian-style ukulele. In keeping with this significant Hawaiian presence, a highlight of the weekend will be a luau dinner held on the final evening. 

March 30–April 3 | Corbett, Oregon
It appears that this event has reached its capacity! However, there is a waiting list for those super-eager to attend. Here’s a bit of info that could make a wait worthwhile: It’s four nights and three days of intense ukulele instruction and music-making within the structure of a band, led by some of the ukulele world’s finest players and band leaders—Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, the Canote Brothers, Kevin Carroll, Aaron Keim, Nicole Keim, Matt Weiner, and Nova Devonie. The program will feature choral warmups, band workshops at appropriate skill levels, and performances by the uke attendee bands. More familiar festival fare will be open mics, jams, and concerts by the musician-teachers. 

April 23–26 | Memphis, Tennessee
This festival’s got a killer name, and the website’s introduction makes you want to grab your uke and get over there—“four music-filled days that will have you jamming and singing and smiling the whole time you are in Memphis . . . where rock ’n’ roll was born and the blues live on. . . .” 

The Jamboree hits the ground running with an opening party Thursday night to music of the totally rockin’ Rhamblin Rhinos Rhedux house band. Open mics and jams are on the agenda Thursday evening through Sunday afternoon. Also, on Saturday and Sunday, guest musicians Lil’ Rev, Andrew Molina, Devin Scott, Ukester Brown, and Megan Carolan will lead workshops during the day and perform in evening concerts. On the final day, everyone will come together for the “Sunday Morn’n Gospel Jam” followed by “Brunch and Byes.” It all happens at the Warehouse in downtown Memphis, a converted building that boasts a full stage, audience seating, and space to meet. Now a private home, it often serves as a live music venue and space for other large events. For example, the owners hosted “Killer” Jerry Lee Lewis’ 75th birthday party!

April 23–26 | Charlotte County, Florida 
This is an elite event, exclusive but intriguing enough for a brief description. In any case, the website information was not complete when we went to press. During the four days, ukers will engage in warm-up singing and strumming, practice strum patterns, participate in “jammie jams,” and enjoy open mics either as performers or audience members. Here are the exclusive aspects: 1) Sassy Lassie is an all-female retreat, and 2) “To keep the magic of this event, there are only six spaces available. 

April 24–26 | Altoona, Pennsylvania 
For the seventh year, ukers from Pennsylvania and beyond will travel to Altoona, site of Horseshoe Curve, a railway engineering marvel constructed in 1854. Largely ignoring this National Historic Landmark, they will converge on the Grand Altoona Hotel to immerse themselves in all things ukulele. Acclaimed musicians Aldrine Guerrero, Heidi Swedberg, Daniel Ward, Neal Chin, the Naked Waiters, the Dirty Hillers, Mim, Amber Rozel, and Milo Fultz perform in concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings and lead workshops Saturday and Sunday. 


Thirty workshops will run concurrently on Saturday and Sunday from 10am until 2pm. Some will target particular skill levels while others will focus on genres such as jazz and old-time. Still more will explore improvisation, rhythmic awareness, use of technology aids, and other ways to enhance music making. All workshops, jams, vendor exhibits, and concerts will take place in the Grand Altoona, which has blocked off 100 rooms for Soirée guests.

May 5–15 | Leaving from Brisbane, Australia 
You say you’ve been everywhere? With your ukulele? Then probably you’ve sailed to Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, one of five tantalizing ports-of-call on the ten-day itinerary designed by Ukulele Cruise Australia. The rest of us will imagine cruising pristine, deep-blue waters along the cluster of islands in the Coral Triangle, reveling in the caresses of warm breezes while we enjoy jams and singalongs, happily improving our technique with help from help of solicitous, experienced ukulele instructors who inspire us by performing in mini-concerts. Apart from ukulele immersion, we contemplate other pleasures of the Papua New Guinea Ukulele Cruise itself—the “welcome aboard” cocktail party, multiple dining options, swimming pools, whirlpools, lounges, bars, casino, and Broadway-style entertainment, not to mention discoveries during the (optional) land excursions when the ship docks. Additional information, such as the names of the ukulele instructor- performers ukulele and other activities should be available by now. 

May 8–10 | Lansing, Michigan 
Once again, picturesque Old Town Lansing is the backdrop for this feisty three-day festival, which uses the acronym MUD. Over 20 workshops will cover a wide range of topics while targeting different playing levels. In addition, Craig Chee, Sarah Maisel, Bryan Tolentino, Herb Ohta and several other celebrated instructor- performers will pluck and strum their stuff in concerts scheduled for Friday and Saturday evenings, as well as Sunday afternoon. Homewood Suites by Hilton will offer accommodation at reduced rates. The discount code and information updates will appear on the MUD website.  

May 22–25 | Olivebridge, New York 
Located in a woodsy area with a view of the Catskill Mountains, Ashokan Center is a serene setting for a ukulele festival. In over 30 workshops addressing various topics and skill levels, attendees can soak up ukulele wisdom from teaching artists Steven Espaniola, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Cynthia Kinnunen, Neal Chin, Aaron Keim, and Ben Hassenger, all of whom will perform in the Saturday night concert. Further enriching the program will be group strums, jam sessions, open-mic sessions, and a Sunday night “camper cabaret.” Ukers seeking respite from this packed program might enjoy strolling to the old-time covered bridge that leads to nearby hiking trails in the woods.

May 29–31 | Las Cruces, New Mexico
Ukefest 2020 will open Friday evening with a concert at New Mexico State University’s Atkinson Recital Hall. For the rest of the weekend, the festival venue will be the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, famous for its fascinating indoor and outdoor exhibits. As the festival organizers put it, “Where else can you take a break from learning chords and strums patterns to go visit Navajo Churro sheep or long-horn cattle?” Performer-instructors Daniel Ho, Del Rey, Casey McGill, Stu Fuchs, and the Dani Joy Duo will offer workshops all day Saturday as well as Sunday morning. Topics include blues with Del Rey, Hawaiian music with Daniel Ho, strums and Cliff Edwards songs and techniques with Casey McGill, and Caribbean grooves and Chuck Berry songs with Stu Fuchs. Saturday’s invigorating program also will feature a lunchtime open mic, evening jam session, vendor marketplace, and prize drawings. Sunday activities will encourage reflection, musical awareness, and commerce. Retired pastor Gordon Smith of the Las Cruces Ukes will preside over the traditional “Gospel According to Uke.” Then attendees will gather for an inspirational whole-group workshop after which they will hit the vendor marketplace before it closes. Finally, those so moved will sell and buy instruments and related items in a swap meet tailored for the festival. The nearby Hilton Garden Inn will provide accommodations. 

June 3–6 | Sparks, Nevada
This event’s 2020 program highlights musical eras and genres such as the British Invasion, the legacy of Hawaiian music, bluegrass, Americana/old west, jazz, and even a tribute to Pink Floyd. It kicks off with a Beatles jam led by guitarist Laurence Juber, Paul McCartney’s Wings bandmate from 1978 to 1981. Acclaimed musicians will share fruits of their careers in workshops on a variety of themes. Daniel Ho will present his new uke-ed series and Makaha Sons founding member Jerome Koko will teach favorites from their “White Sandy Beach” days. Popular performers Aaron KeimDani Joy, Abe Lagrimas, Jr., and Steven Espaniola round out the faculty. New workshops: “Strum like Johnny“ and “All About Paul’s Bass,” featuring the characteristic rhythms and iconic bass licks of Lennon and McCartney and “Cowboy Ukulele.”  On a decidedly merry note, England’s Dead Man’s Uke will create the raucous pub atmosphere of the UK. Once again, the Nugget Resort will be the festival venue and provide accommodations. And once again, the official program will not suggest visiting the resort casino. 

June 18–21 | Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, UK
Set in the university and marketplace town of Huddersfield, the Grand Northern’s lofty reputation derives from an award-winning volunteer team (e.g. Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, Duke of York Community Initiative Award—OK, enough.) Craig Chee, Sarah Maisel, Heidi Swedberg, and Mim are a few of the musicians who will perform in concerts and lead inspiring workshops. Creative approaches to playing uke, tips on performing in public, instrument-making, and photography are some of the topics to be covered. In an atmosphere of fellowship and fun, attendees will enjoy the open mics, play-alongs and singalongs, jams, and a late-night cabaret. As a diversion, newcomers to West Yorkshire may want to explore its dramatic contrasts—timeless villages, rugged terrain, and historic factory towns that thrived during the Industrial Revolution.

June 26–28 | Olivet College, Michigan
The town’s historic campus will host over 60 workshops on a wide range of topics while accommodating various levels of playing proficiency. The ukulele instructors will be acclaimed performers Del Rey, Matt Dahlberg, Ukulenny, Abe Lagrimas, Jr., Neal Chin, Amber Rozel, Kevin Carroll, Diane Nalini, and Eve Goldberg. Andy Wilson, Sandy Weltman, and Mike Stevens will lead the harmonica workshops. Friday and Saturday evening concerts will showcase the talents of these teaching musicians. The program also will give attendees time for open mic sessions, group strums, jams, and informal get-togethers. Olivet College will provide accommodations.