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View Full Version : Takeaways from Uke Festivals



oregonuke
03-13-2016, 01:39 PM
I'm curious to know what folks have to say about their experience at Ukulele Festivals. I'm not necessarily looking for responses to a specific event, but in a more general sense, what did you come away with in regards to what...
...surprised you (positive or negative)?
...was the most beneficial to you?
...was the least beneficial to you?
...you did specifically that made the experience memorable?
...you would do next time to make your experience better?

I'll be attending my first uke fest next month. While I'm a bit crowd-averse I am looking forward to just going with the flow and being a sponge. At the same time, it would be nice to know what people have experienced that might help me or others who are looking to attend their first ukulele gathering.

sukie
03-13-2016, 02:00 PM
I love ukulele festivals! I usually get to go to UWC (not a festival really) and one real festival. I wish I could go to more but I can't. Anyway...
I usually pick which one by who the teacher/performers are. I like playing Hawaiian music so at least one presenter needs to do stuff in a similar manner. I also like to be social at them. Not only is it fun, people share things ukulele-wise. My advice would to spend as little time as possible in your room. Soak it up. Check out the vendors, meet people, play your ukulele and feel a tad bit sad when you leave.
Then realise you have new friends to plot with for the next one.
I do go to some of the workshops. I always learn something. But I realise I will never remember it all. (Another reason to go to more!)
Go and have a great time. Meet other UUers if possible!

Rllink
03-13-2016, 02:06 PM
I'm curious to know what folks have to say about their experience at Ukulele Festivals. I'm not necessarily looking for responses to a specific event, but in a more general sense, what did you come away with in regards to what...
...surprised you (positive or negative)?
...was the most beneficial to you?
...was the least beneficial to you?
...you did specifically that made the experience memorable?
...you would do next time to make your experience better?

I'll be attending my first uke fest next month. While I'm a bit crowd-averse I am looking forward to just going with the flow and being a sponge. At the same time, it would be nice to know what people have experienced that might help me or others who are looking to attend their first ukulele gathering.

It is interesting that you say that you are crowd-averse, because so was I. I enjoyed my first festival a lot, but it also pushed me way out of my comfort zone, which was good actually. I took several workshops, and they were not really spectator events. I mean, you are there to play the ukulele. But I don't want to scare you, because I went looking for it. I think that the biggest thing that I came away with was a huge boost in confidence.

NewKid
03-13-2016, 05:05 PM
My takeaway from the ukulele festivals I attended are there are lots of friendly people there and the ukulele community is open and inclusive. Say hello to everyone you meet and try out as many instruments as you can - both from vendors and fellow attendees. I haven't been to one in a while but I have wonderful memories from the 2012 Denver Uke Fest. It was so good in every way.

kohanmike
03-13-2016, 06:23 PM
Here in Los Angeles there are a number of uke festivals and I try to attend all of them, but to qualify that, the group I'm with, The CC Strummers, is usually invited to perform. I really enjoy listening to the other performers, roaming the booths and salivating over some of the special ukes, and the bass ukes. I've taken a number of workshops, some are very good, some are not so much for me. (I also like when there are plenty of food trucks from which to choose.)

ukulelekarcsi
03-13-2016, 10:53 PM
- that artists/performers are VERY approachable and nice. I've never seen a ukulele festival with security personnel.
- that everyone's swapping instruments: here, try mine!
- that more than half of the attendees play ukulele themselves (make that a full 100% during workshops, less so during concerts). That means that hallways, lunch rooms, steps and even rest rooms all are spots to jam without a fixed agenda.
- that those jams have a low threshold.
- to do: bring an instrument, learn some songs by heart in advance (you can drag along books and binders, but that's a hassle), and be just a bit outgoing.

MainlandGal510
04-10-2016, 11:19 AM
Nice thread. Thanks. I'm looking forward to the RenoUke fest this week -- (first timer) -- sounds like it's going to be a blast.

Ukulelerick9255
04-10-2016, 01:02 PM
My experience I'd that the people are nice and most of the instructors are very approachable. Unfortunately they are exactly what I'm trying to avoid which is that most of the music is Tin Pan Alley stuff which I abhor so as much as the people are nice the music isn't for me. If i hear 5'2 eyes of blue or if you knew Susie like I knew Susie now I begin to regurgitate.

sam13
04-10-2016, 01:09 PM
I recommend getting your own room to sleep.

If the person you are thinking of sharing a room with tells you he or she might snore. They will.

And you will be tired the next day.

I echo all the other sentiments. Great times, friendly people and not all events play Tin Pan Alley songs. But hey, even they can be fun once in a blue moon.

Tonya
04-10-2016, 04:08 PM
Okay, I've attended more than 30 ukulele events/festivals since my first one (Rhode Island, Ukulele Hall of Fame Expo, 2003). I can tell you I wouldn't keep returning if they weren't such fun. Of course, you might also wonder why I'm not an absolutely wonderful player if I've so many of these in my past, but it's not the festivals' fault ;)

In the "old days," I used to advise people to be prepared with paper, pen, folder to hold all the worksheets you'll receive. These days, most festivals (including Reno) have worksheets available as PDFs ahead of time so it's your responsibility to download print/put 'em on your tablet/iPad/device-thing before you get there. Don't count on wifi at the site (although it should be pretty good at Reno from past experience).

Carry a lightweight backpack for your support "stuff." Bring a snack you like in case there isn't food on-site that you like (oooh, that reminds me of the toasty freshly-made malasadas at the Northern California Ukulele Festival, but I digress...) or in case you're so busy jamming with new friends, taking classes or ogling the vendor booths that you don't have *time* to eat. Water bottle, too.

Planning on trying out a lot of new instruments at the vendor booths (and why wouldn't you?)? Don't wear a belt buckle or anything metallic/scratchy; vendors like to see ukulele folks stretch a bit and try out instruments which may be a bit out of reach financially, but they do *not* want you to scratch the instruments you're trying out on a big silver rodeo belt buckle. Same goes for having sticky hands from food if you're trying out instruments.

It can be a challenge to actually "hear" an instrument sometimes in the vendor areas--there are so many people and noises that it's hard to hear the tones in any instruments you're trying. If possible, head to a corner of the room and play so that the sound "bounces" back at you so you can hear it for yourself.

It used to be you had to bring cash or check for buying the goodies at festivals. This could include not only instruments but CDs, DVDs, ukulele bling (self promotion: hey, look for my booth at Reno), Hawaiian mementos, etc. With Square and other forms of credit card acceptance, though, just have that credit card handy and you'll be fine. Cash, however, is always appreciated :)

Do *not* be afraid of jamming. Even if you're a total stranger to a group you see playing, and all you know is a C chord, you'll likely be welcomed. Stand around for a few songs, watching how the jamming is done in that group of people and then, if they haven't asked you first, ask someone if you can join in. Don't play too loud but don't be afraid to smile and get in the spirit of the group's playing. At my first festival, the owner of three chords (yes, C, F and G7), I found myself playing "Love Potion #9" with a room of total strangers at 1:45 am. And I couldn't stop smiling!

Don't overdo on the workshops. You will *not* be able to absorb everything at every workshop; instead, your head will be spinning and you'll be working so hard at catching every single thing "to do" that you'll likely miss out on the experiences (like jamming, trying out new instruments, meeting folks) that aren't on the workshop schedule.

If you're going to audio or video the workshop, ask the instructor *ahead* of time; most are okay with it, but it's always polite to ask. And less embarrassing than being called out in a large group...

At workshops, sit close to the front, if possible (typically you have to arrive early for a workshop to snag a front seat). I like to sit to the middle, left of a room facing the instructor. If you're too far to the right, it's hard to see their fretting left hand clearly. Don't hog more than your one chair you're sitting in; keep your gear close to underfoot. If you can't balance your music worksheets on your lap, consider using a skirt hanger with clips and sit in the second row so you can hang the hanger from the back of the seat in front of you (like this: http://ukuleletonya.com/blog/2013/04/easy-music-stand-for-workshops). I haven't figured out how to adapt that to an iPad yet...

Take some photos of the festival--not usually the performances because they're just too hard to capture with most regular/phone cameras. Instead, get some pix of your new friends (for some funny ones from my photo booth, see: http://ukuleletonya.com/blog/2013/08/were-you-at-reno-heres-proof), a few jamming circles, some ukuleles you fell in love with but your bank account determined they'd be an unrequited love.

If you see a fellow attendee with an instrument you've always heard about, feel free to ask to look at it more closely--and maybe even play it (don't forget, no sticky hands, no big belt buckles). I'll have one of my Moore Bettah Ukuleles with me at Reno this week and anyone's welcome to ask to play it. I love to share how nifty it is to play a deluxe instrument--everyone should have a chance to try it! Here's who I got to share an MBU with at Reno in 2013: http://ukuleletonya.com/blog/2013/08/didnt-mom-always-tell-you-to-share

What will you take home? Hopefully some new friendships, a few new skills, an awareness that there is a *lot* more to playing than you'd ever thought and a desire to get to the next ukulele festival you hear about. That's how it is for me, at least.

See you at Reno!

bonesoup
04-11-2016, 01:24 AM
I recommend getting your own room to sleep.

If the person you are thinking of sharing a room with tells you he or she might snore. They will.

And you will be tired the next day.

I echo all the other sentiments. Great times, friendly people and not all events play Tin Pan Alley songs. But hey, even they can be fun once in a blue moon.

I see what you did there ;)

coolkayaker1
04-11-2016, 01:56 AM
I find uke fests to be:

Horrific places to actually learn anything of lasting significance musically.

Superb places to discover that playing the ukulele with groups involves little beyond slow to even slower tempoed "songs", typically from the 1960s or earlier, strummed zombie-like in open major chording. Puff the Magic Dragon and anything from the Beatles, the dreadful stuff before they became cool, is fairly representative.

Outstanding places to "try" brands of instruments--in reality, mostly watching someone else play it rather than truly playing it oneself--before coming home and, within a week, yanking out the wallet to buy the brand "that I tried at the uke fest" from an online retailer, despite all the conventional wisdom not to do that, and despite already owning ten ukuleles that, being real, truly sound the same regardless of brand or wood type.

Interesting places to rub elbows with uke enthusiasts that live day-to-day, like you, in isolation from anyone that considers the uke even a musical instrument, and then to get all warm inside that you have a new "friend", adding them to your social media feed so that you can see photos of their spouse and kids, the ones you'll never meet, knowing full well in your heart that, should you bump shopping carts at the local Piggly Wiggly with your new "friend" even tomorrow, you'd likely both just say "Pardon me" and move on unrecognized.

Yea, uke fests are the bomb.

Ukejenny
04-11-2016, 04:07 AM
We call our festival a festival, but it is more of a family reunion, a reason to get together with our friends from other towns. We do some light "teaching" type stuff, but basically, we just get together and jam. Very informal. And, due to our fairly isolated location, no vendors as of yet. I'm hoping we can change that a little this year.

Nickie
04-11-2016, 04:37 AM
I only get to attend one festival a year.
My favorite parts are: running into people I've met here, like Sukie and Freeda. And seeing Mim, and watching her blue hair turn gray trying to fix one of my buzzing ukes. (Mim, I fixed that Ohana by myself, LOL)
I love meeting new people, the vendors, the ukers, and the performer/teachers.
And the comedy of people like Uncle Elvis....the jam sessions, the workshops. I always carry home at least one little trick. Last year I even played in the Open Mic. I was a disaster, but at least I did it! I'll try again.
I love the fact that vendors can sell some ukes and pay their expenses, at least.
The drawings for prizes are fun, and once I even won a uke!
One year, it was so damned cold in the building I was miserable, I didn't enjoy it, and I seemed to be in a daze of pain.
The only thing I don't like is that it's over too soon.

macfish
04-11-2016, 04:58 AM
hysterical Kayaker! I have not attended one yet, but this kinda what it seems to me looking at videos on YouTube.

sam13
04-11-2016, 04:59 AM
I see what you did there ;)

That's cause you are a smart guy! :cool:

MainlandGal510
04-11-2016, 12:29 PM
Thanks for the generous info & link to your blog. Look for me to visit your booth!
Okay, I've attended more than 30 ukulele events/festivals since my first one (Rhode Island, Ukulele Hall of Fame Expo, 2003). I can tell you I wouldn't keep returning if they weren't such fun. Of course, you might also wonder why I'm not an absolutely wonderful player if I've so many of these in my past, but it's not the festivals' fault ;)

In the "old days," I used to advise people to be prepared with paper, pen, folder to hold all the worksheets you'll receive. These days, most festivals (including Reno) have worksheets available as PDFs ahead of time so it's your responsibility to download print/put 'em on your tablet/iPad/device-thing before you get there. Don't count on wifi at the site (although it should be pretty good at Reno from past experience).

Carry a lightweight backpack for your support "stuff." Bring a snack you like in case there isn't food on-site that you like (oooh, that reminds me of the toasty freshly-made malasadas at the Northern California Ukulele Festival, but I digress...) or in case you're so busy jamming with new friends, taking classes or ogling the vendor booths that you don't have *time* to eat. Water bottle, too.

Planning on trying out a lot of new instruments at the vendor booths (and why wouldn't you?)? Don't wear a belt buckle or anything metallic/scratchy; vendors like to see ukulele folks stretch a bit and try out instruments which may be a bit out of reach financially, but they do *not* want you to scratch the instruments you're trying out on a big silver rodeo belt buckle. Same goes for having sticky hands from food if you're trying out instruments.

It can be a challenge to actually "hear" an instrument sometimes in the vendor areas--there are so many people and noises that it's hard to hear the tones in any instruments you're trying. If possible, head to a corner of the room and play so that the sound "bounces" back at you so you can hear it for yourself.

It used to be you had to bring cash or check for buying the goodies at festivals. This could include not only instruments but CDs, DVDs, ukulele bling (self promotion: hey, look for my booth at Reno), Hawaiian mementos, etc. With Square and other forms of credit card acceptance, though, just have that credit card handy and you'll be fine. Cash, however, is always appreciated :)

Do *not* be afraid of jamming. Even if you're a total stranger to a group you see playing, and all you know is a C chord, you'll likely be welcomed. Stand around for a few songs, watching how the jamming is done in that group of people and then, if they haven't asked you first, ask someone if you can join in. Don't play too loud but don't be afraid to smile and get in the spirit of the group's playing. At my first festival, the owner of three chords (yes, C, F and G7), I found myself playing "Love Potion #9" with a room of total strangers at 1:45 am. And I couldn't stop smiling!

Don't overdo on the workshops. You will *not* be able to absorb everything at every workshop; instead, your head will be spinning and you'll be working so hard at catching every single thing "to do" that you'll likely miss out on the experiences (like jamming, trying out new instruments, meeting folks) that aren't on the workshop schedule.

If you're going to audio or video the workshop, ask the instructor *ahead* of time; most are okay with it, but it's always polite to ask. And less embarrassing than being called out in a large group...

At workshops, sit close to the front, if possible (typically you have to arrive early for a workshop to snag a front seat). I like to sit to the middle, left of a room facing the instructor. If you're too far to the right, it's hard to see their fretting left hand clearly. Don't hog more than your one chair you're sitting in; keep your gear close to underfoot. If you can't balance your music worksheets on your lap, consider using a skirt hanger with clips and sit in the second row so you can hang the hanger from the back of the seat in front of you (like this: http://ukuleletonya.com/blog/2013/04/easy-music-stand-for-workshops). I haven't figured out how to adapt that to an iPad yet...

Take some photos of the festival--not usually the performances because they're just too hard to capture with most regular/phone cameras. Instead, get some pix of your new friends (for some funny ones from my photo booth, see: http://ukuleletonya.com/blog/2013/08/were-you-at-reno-heres-proof), a few jamming circles, some ukuleles you fell in love with but your bank account determined they'd be an unrequited love.

If you see a fellow attendee with an instrument you've always heard about, feel free to ask to look at it more closely--and maybe even play it (don't forget, no sticky hands, no big belt buckles). I'll have one of my Moore Bettah Ukuleles with me at Reno this week and anyone's welcome to ask to play it. I love to share how nifty it is to play a deluxe instrument--everyone should have a chance to try it! Here's who I got to share an MBU with at Reno in 2013: http://ukuleletonya.com/blog/2013/08/didnt-mom-always-tell-you-to-share

What will you take home? Hopefully some new friendships, a few new skills, an awareness that there is a *lot* more to playing than you'd ever thought and a desire to get to the next ukulele festival you hear about. That's how it is for me, at least.

See you at Reno!

janeray1940
04-11-2016, 01:01 PM
I find uke fests to be:

Horrific places to actually learn anything of lasting significance musically.

Superb places to discover that playing the ukulele with groups involves little beyond slow to even slower tempoed "songs", typically from the 1960s or earlier, strummed zombie-like in open major chording. Puff the Magic Dragon and anything from the Beatles, the dreadful stuff before they became cool, is fairly representative.

Outstanding places to "try" brands of instruments--in reality, mostly watching someone else play it rather than truly playing it oneself--before coming home and, within a week, yanking out the wallet to buy the brand "that I tried at the uke fest" from an online retailer, despite all the conventional wisdom not to do that, and despite already owning ten ukuleles that, being real, truly sound the same regardless of brand or wood type.

Interesting places to rub elbows with uke enthusiasts that live day-to-day, like you, in isolation from anyone that considers the uke even a musical instrument, and then to get all warm inside that you have a new "friend", adding them to your social media feed so that you can see photos of their spouse and kids, the ones you'll never meet, knowing full well in your heart that, should you bump shopping carts at the local Piggly Wiggly with your new "friend" even tomorrow, you'd likely both just say "Pardon me" and move on unrecognized.

Yea, uke fests are the bomb.

This. Is. Hilarious!!!

(And... in my experience... more or less all true. Except that "dreadful stuff" bit about the Beatles but hey, whatever :))

coolkayaker1
04-12-2016, 06:45 PM
This. Is. Hilarious!!!

:))

Thanks for being such a good UU friend, M

mds725
04-12-2016, 08:18 PM
For a while, my "takeaway" from an ukulele festival was often a new ukulele (or an order for one). :)

It's generally true that when a large group of people plays ukuleles together, the strumming is often "lowest common denominator." I've also observed that with the possible exception of people who play Hawaiian music, ukulele players who go to festivals are generally baby boomers who, through ukulele, are fulfilling their fantasy of being the rock stars they grew up listening to (hence so much Beatles music). One thing I learned from Ken Middleton at last year's Reno Ukulele Festival is to not be afraid to do your own thing at a large group ukulele playalong. So now I try not to be sucked into "zombie-like" strumming and try to be more creative for my own enjoyment.

kohanmike
04-12-2016, 08:27 PM
...baby boomers who, through ukulele, are fulfilling their fantasy of being the rock stars they grew up listening to (hence so much Beatles music).

Precisely why I just bought "The Beatles for Fingerstyle Ukulele" by Fred Sokolow, and to get me back to my tenor ukes after playing almost exclusively bass uke for the last year.

Snargle
04-13-2016, 03:12 AM
For a while, my "takeaway" from an ukulele festival was often a new ukulele (or an order for one). :)

I have a funny feeling that this might be happening to me this weekend. :rolleyes:


...ukulele players who go to festivals are generally baby boomers who, through ukulele, are fulfilling their fantasy of being the rock stars they grew up listening to (hence so much Beatles music)I was more of a Rolling Stones or The Doors kind of guy. You don't hear a whole lot of Stones music arranged for the uke. And I'd love to hear a well-done version of "L.A. Woman" or "Riders on the Storm" on the ukulele! :-)