Ukulele Events: MARCH, APRIL, MAY & JUNE 2019

Submission Information

To be included, email event name, date(s), and contact information to Listings are free for ukulele events, though we may not have space to include every submission. Deadlines for the next four issues are:

  • Summer 2019   February 4, 2019
  • Fall 2019             May 6, 2019
  • Winter 2019      August 5, 2019
  • Spring 2020      November 4, 2019
  • Summer 2020     February 3, 2020

March 7–10, 2019 | Kernville, California
The harp in this festival has no strings attached. It refers to the term that blues harmonica players still use for the harmonica. At this second Ukulele Blues & Harp Fest, veteran bluesman Catfish Jack Chauvin will help players of the free reed instrument hone their technique. He also will offer introductory instruction to interested ukers. Musicians yearning to simultaneously blow and strum à la Bob Dylan will learn to perform wearing the harmonica holder known as a neck rack  (or rack). Kevin Carroll, sometimes called “the Pied Piper of the ukulele,” heads up the blues ukulele side of the event. He will teach at all levels of proficiency. Between Thursday night and Sunday morning, attendees will find multiple opportunities to learn from Kevin and Jack and listen to their combined talents. Rousing Jam sessions will contribute to the sense of fellowship that builds during the intense two-and-a-half-day event. Participants also can venture into charming downtown Kernville, about an hour’s drive east of Bakersfield, California, and just a short walk away from their accommodations at the quaint Pine Cone Inn. Just as they did last year, town residents will invite players from the festival to take part in their Saturday night community concert. 

March 7–March 10, 2019 | Carmel Valley, California

The Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz is holding its tenth annual Smoldering Uke winter retreat at the Hidden Valley Music Seminars campus in beautiful Carmel Valley, California. There will be musician-taught workshops and organized jams aimed at helping you become a better ukulele player—regardless of ability level—as well as enhance your overall enjoyment of the instrument. They also build in plenty of free time between workshops for impromptu jams and chatting with friends (or making new ones). Evening programs promise to be as entertaining, and a few fun surprises are in store. Accommodations for Smoldering Uke include on-campus single- or double-occupancy dorm rooms, as well as hotel rooms at the Hidden Valley Inn next door. RV parking is also available, as are meal packages for those who wish to attend the full event, but will provide their own overnight lodgings.

March 16–23, 2019| Havana, Cuba
As we finalized our events listing in late November, spots were still open on this tour, but fair warning, este evento es muy popular. Join fellow ukers for a week exploring musical traditions and other cultural treasures in Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad, Cuba. All along the itinerary, participants will encounter the island’s musical riches. Renowned nueva trova singer and songwriter Frank Delgado will perform for the tour group at the Café Madrigal, once a sumptuous colonial mansion. Classical guitarist Yibran Rivero will perform, discuss his country’s musical history, and engage in lively conversation with participants. Another opportunity for cultural dialogue will come during a visit to the modest home of the duo known as La Reyna y la Real. After their performance, the artists will discuss challenges young Cubans currently face. Other cultural highlights include ballet and flamenco performances and visits to the private studios of celebrated artists. Guiding the group on this cultural odyssey are Professor of Sociology Charles Bittner, musician and expert on Cuban culture, along with Christopher Elias Queseda, an official tour guide well-versed in Cuban music and culture. Accommodations include five nights at the four-star NH Capri Hotel de Habana and two evenings at a private guesthouse in Trinidad. 

March 20–30, 2019 | Roundtrip from San Francisco
Once again Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel go cruisin’ with ukers. The agenda is ten days of touring, learning, and glorious lazing. Sailing from San Francisco, the Grand Princess will hug the coastline, anchoring in Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. Craig and Sarah not only are acclaimed ukulele players but also popular instructors known for teaching well-structured, engaging workshops. Two guest musicians on the cruise will complement their talents. Milo Fultz has explored a host of genres, among them jazz, funk, and soul. He intends to focus on the ukulele bass and inspire ukers to join him in exuberant jamming sessions. Kalei Gamiao has four popular albums to his credit and performs throughout Hawaii, the U.S. mainland, and Asia. No doubt, participants will visit fascinating ports of call and immerse themselves in ukulele instruction. But hopefully they won’t forget to immerse themselves in the ship’s tantalizing pool or experience sheer tranquillity in a no-children-permitted haven known as The Sanctuary. 

March 25–29, 2019 | Corbett, Oregon
The goal of this retreat is to help ukulele players expand their technical proficiency and general musicianship through the experience of playing in a band. Workshops taught at beginner, advanced-beginner, intermediate, and intermediate/advanced levels, and deal with topics such as singing, improvising, claw-hammer technique, and accordion. On the 2019 faculty: Two-time Grammy-winning vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, Americana performers Aaron Keim and Nicole Keim, double-bass master Matt Weiner, guitarist-songwriter Tracy Kim, and multi-genre accordionist-composer Nova Devonie. The program for the four nights and three days is designed to balance intense learning with equally intense musical merrymaking.

April 5–9, 2019 | Kaunakaika, Molokai
The lush landscape of Molokai’s east end makes an appropriate setting for absorbing traditional Hawaiian culture while learning new ukulele techniques. The instructors for this five-day event are more then up to the task. Lono is an inspirational interpreter and composer of old style music who regales audiences with stories of island life. With eight CDs to his credit, the Molokai-born musician-has performed and taught ukulele throughout the U.S. mainland and Asia. Heidi Swedberg and Daniel Ward also have toured widely, not only helping players gain proficiency but also nurturing the fellowship that brings ukers together. Ward will teach participants to play and later perform chords, strums, scales, and slides. He also will convey stylistic tips mastered during his 30-year career. Hawaii-born Swedberg, a gifted ukulele player from childhood, is known for her ability to break down complicated musical concepts into simple steps. Workshops as well as accommodations are located on a 14,000-acre working ranch called Pu’u O Hoku (Hill of Stars). Limited to just 22 participants, this intimate experience also offers instruction in traditional hula, evenings listening to colorful legends and stories of old Hawaii, and sunrise swims in waters of the nearby Halawa Valley’s pristine beaches. 


May 3–5, 2019 | Altoona, Pennsylvania
Located in the foothills of the Alleghenies, the Altoona Grand Hotel is a spacious and comfortable site for the sixth Soirée. In its program, typical festival fare activities get kicked up a notch and a half. Consider the jams: Gospel Jam, Rise and Shine Jam, and Punk/Funk Strum Jam. Participants perform in open-mic sessions on Saturday in the Grouse’s Nest restaurant and bar, with soloists playing during the lunch break and groups during dinner. Soirées traditionally screen ukulele-themed films. Included in this year’s batch: Life on Four Strings (Jake Shimabukuro documentary), Under the Boardwalk, The Jumping Flea, The Mighty Uke, and The Ukes Down Under are among the 2019 picks. Friday and Saturday night concerts showcase the teacher-musicians who will lead over 30 different workshops. The Quiet American (Aaron and Nicole Keim) are masterful interpreters of American roots songs. Hawaiian-born uker Craig Chee played piano and cello before a ukulele virtuoso inspired him to embrace the uke and acquire his astounding technique. Accomplished uker Sarah Maisel collaborates with Chee to teach workshops worldwide and create useful, accessible learning aids. Singer-songwriter Abe Deshotel composes songs that brim with honest emotion and a sense of wonder. Christopher Davis-Shannon infuses his uke playing with jazz influences from Fats Waller to Chet Baker. Mim, best known for her online music store, brings high energy grooves to the stage while performing everything from oldies to rap. 

May 1–4, 2019 | Reno, Nevada
After ten years of the successful Reno Ukulele Festival, impresario Doug Reynolds decided to explore what’s next and rebrand one of the largest ukulele festivals anywhere. Given that many top ukulele players are multi-instrumentalists, he chose to tap into their skills and expand the ukulele festival beyond the uke-only bubble to incorporate ideas that will draw more ideas and techniques into attendees’ music. Grammy-winning producer and musician Daniel Ho returns, joining an eclectic line-up of instructor-performers. Muriel Anderson, an award-winning acoustic guitarist, will demonstrate right-hand techniques and styles that can be  adapted to the ukulele, including classical tremolo, bluegrass banjo, claw-hammer, and Travis picking. From concert halls to classrooms, the soaring vocals and instrumentals of Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer deepen one’s appreciation of the folk tradition. Gerald Ross joyfully shares his unique approach to playing American roots music on the ukulele and guitar. Prolific composer for TV and film John Batdorf will share elements of his craft in his workshop Composing Melodies & Soundtracks. Versatile Casey MacGill will offer tips on playing swing on the uke. Dead Man’s Uke, the father and son team of Tim (ukulele and vocals) and Jake Smithies (double bass) keep audiences riveted with their lively performances. (Tidbit: Daddy Jake’s resonator ukulele once belonged to high-pitched warbler Tiny Tim.) Dani Joy will give a workshop on the art of the singer-songwriter. The event features all-day workshops, a vendor market place, and evening concerts highlighting faculty members. And while the official festival starts on Thursday, May 2, Wednesday arrivals may attend bonus workshops and enjoy an early-bird jam. 

May 4 & 5, 2019 | Albuquerque & Santa Fe, New Mexico
World renown ukulele master Del Rey is coming to Albuquerque and Santa Fe for the first ever New Mexico Ukulele Weekend. Joining Del will be internationally-known ukulele instructor and Ukulele Contributing Editor Jim D’Ville for two days of workshops and concerts. On Saturday, May 4, Del and Jim will lead a day-long workshop event at The Outpost in Albuquerque, followed by an hour-long concert. On Sunday, May 5, the two artists will repeat the workshops and concert at The Performance Space in Santa Fe.
The workshop topics will include Easy Blues, Jug Band & Country Play-Along, The Emotional Value of Chords, and Ukulele Blues Party. The workshops are designed for Advanced Beginners and up who know basic ukulele chords. Interested players can register in advance on the website.

May 10–12, 2019 | Lansing, Michigan
Festival founder Ben Hassenger has assembled an eclectic lineup of instructor-performers to lead multiple workshops Friday afternoon and all-day Saturday. The featured instructor-performers include Canadian ukulele performer and music educator Cynthia Kinnunen, Hawaii-born multi-instrumentalist Steven Espaniola, singer-songwriter-YouTube star Danielle Ate the Sandwich aka Danielle Anderson, as well as The Naked Waiters, Matt Dahlberg, and Abigail Stauffer. Spirited jams, open-mic sessions, and a concert by the performer-instructors will round out the festival. Updates will be posted on the website in January.


May 1012 , 2019 | Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
The big news this year is that ukulele hero Jake Shimabukuro will be appearing at the 7th annual GNUF. The event takes place over three days (and two nights) in Huddersfield, which is about 14 miles from Leeds and 24 miles from Manchester. Also on the bill are Craig Chee, Phil Doleman, Peter Luongo, Sarah Maisel, Heidi Swedberg, and Daniel Ward with more events and a schedule to be announced in “March and April” according to the website. This year, they’re introducing masterclasses as well as “activities which allow you to take part in experiences and workshops covering all things ukulele and other related things like songwriting, photography, performance, and more.” As one of the largest ukulele events anywhere, it’s famous for its fun and high-energy.


May 17–19, 2019 | Las Cruces, New Mexico
This uke-full weekend in southern New Mexico kicks off Friday evening with a concert at New Mexico State University’s Atkinson Center for the Performing Arts. Gracing the stage will the 2019 instructor-performers: acclaimed uker-drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr., Kevin Carroll, Victoria Vox, Gorton Smith, and The Quiet American (Aaron and Nicole Keim). The main festival venue is the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum where attendees can explore exhibits between scheduled activities. Workshops take place Saturday morning and afternoon. Those eager to display their musicianship can sign up for the Saturday lunchtime open-mic. The evening is devoted to a high-energy jam. A chance to upgrade or downsize one’s uke of choice or simply to make some dough comes at the Fest’s Ukulele Swap Meet. The UkeFest concludes with a final workshop. 

May 23–26, 2019 | Graz, Austria
The Austrian Ukulele Festival program devotes mornings to workshops led by an international array of instructor performers. Participants get to hone their technique with Taimane Gardner (Hawaii), whose fingers become a sensational blur when she plays. Uke virtuoso and composer Andrew Molina (Hawaii) was designated by Ukulele as an up-and-coming musician to watch. Peter Luongo (Canada), ukulele instructor par excellence, leads the famed Langley Ukulele Ensemble. Elisabeth Pfeiffer (Austria), a convert from the classical guitar, won First Prize at the 2018 Aquila Ukulele Festival. Another gifted guitarist who fell in love with the uke, Francesco Albertazzi, known as Tubadu (Italy), plays material from vintage to contemporary in a variety of genres. Opera-Lele (U.K.) proves the endless versatility of the mighty ukulele, which blends with voices performing material from opera and musical theater. The Graz-based Kaisers Ukulelen Combo (Austria) includes five band members performing ukulele, uke-bass, mandolin, and vocals. The three musicians who comprise the Bad Mouse Orchestra (Germany) evoke the 1920s and 30s as they entertain on the guitar, ukulele, and washboard. Dead Man’s Uke, Tim (ukulele and vocals) and Jake Smithies (double bass) will inject their playing and teaching with sky-high spirit.  The Mersey Belles (U.K.) lend luscious harmonies to classics from the 1920s to the ’50s and also do justice to a sprinkling of 21st century favorites. Also appearing are the intriguing, Hawaii-inspired Nico’o & The Opihi Men (France). Sure to attract a crowd will be the wildly popular YouTube phenomenon The Ukulele Teacher (U.S.), who merrily teaches viewers to play popular tunes by the likes of ABBA, the Beatles, and Justin Bieber. Workshops, however, are only one aspect of this festival. On Friday afternoon, attendees will gather at Kaiser Josef Platz for an open-air beatbox jam session, singalong, and open-mic. On Saturday at the stroke of noon, it’s time to form a flash mob at the Main Square and walk up to Schlossbergbühne Kasematten, the main venue for afternoon concerts, singalongs, open-mics, and vendor exhibits. Generous touch: The five evening concerts at the Theatercafé Jazz Club will be open to those unable to attend the festival.

May 24–May 27, 2019 | Olivebridge, New York
The setting for this event, in the Catskill Mountains, could not be more conducive to music-making. Ashokan Center is surrounded by tranquil forests, meadows, and streams. On Friday evening following a welcome dinner, attendees meet the instructor-performers: James Hill and Anne Janelle. Accomplished uker and guitarist Ben Hassenger has taught at the Interlochen School for the Arts, Michigan State University, and other prestigious institutions. Casey MacGill mesmerizes audiences playing swing and other genres. Ashokan Uke Fest organizer Gerald Ross specializes in American roots music on the ukulele, guitar, and steel guitar. Siblings Greg and Jere Canote entertain with quirky novelty songs and other vintage American material, moving effortlessly among ukulele, fiddle, guitar, banjo, and more. On Saturday and Sunday, workshops will take place mornings and afternoons. Saturday evening will feature a faculty concert followed by raucous blues and swing jamming. On Sunday evening, attendees provide the entertainment in a marathon open-mic session known as Student Cabaret, followed by another late night jam. The Fest finishes Monday with a farewell breakfast. 

June 21–23, 2019 | Olivet, Michigan
Sixteen teacher-performers representing a variety of styles, techniques, and instructional approaches helm this event held on the Olivet College Campus. Although partial to jazz, Hawaii-born Neal Chin has played genres as varied Hawaiian, folk, rock, and hip-hop on the ukulele. His contribution to the collective known as The Akira Project won Hawaii’s prestigious Na Hoku Hanohano music award in 2014. Canadian musician and music educator Cynthia Kinnunen has been called “a one-woman evangelist for an instrument that has gone in and out of fashion over the past century, but whose current incarnation appears to have found traction locally and worldwide.” Ukulenny is a sponsored Kala Ukulele Artist, creating video content for the company’s Learn to Play Program. Eve Goldberg is a songwriter and instrumentalist (not to mention writer and filmmaker) who performs a mixture of folk, blues, country, bluegrass, old-time, and jazz. Katie DeNure is a guitar, voice, flute, and ukulele teacher based in Wisconsin. Melissa Sigh is the owner/operator of Sigh Studio of Music in Lansing, Michigan, and currently sees 150 (mostly ukulele) students each week! Another multi-genre multi-instrumentalist, Andy Wilson, performs solo and with a number of ensembles on ukulele, harmonica, trumpet, Cajun accordion, and Irish whistles. Also scheduled are familiar names such as Kevin Carroll, Catfish Jack Chauvin, Craig Chee, Abe Lagrimas Jr., Sarah Maisel, Heidi Swedberg, and Daniel Ward. Lodging is on-site in Shepherd Hall, an air-conditioned student dormitory. There are single- and double-occupancy options.