Getting a monthly group strum going

Cornfield

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I would like to get a monthly group strum going in my area. I've been to the one they do in Lansing, MI and think that something like that would be popular here. Any ideas on how to get this off of the ground would be helpful
 

KohanMike

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The group with which I meet Sundays from 12 to 2 started on Meetup.com. There are about 10-12 of us. It seems that would be a way to get it started. When our group got established about a year later, the leader took it off Meetup because apparently they started charging a fee.


8 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 10 solid body bass ukes, 7 mini electric bass guitars

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children's hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video
 

hendulele

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You may want to start by posting on Meetup or Craigslist to gauge interest locally. Our group branched off from one that had been around for a few years but was 45 minutes away for most of us. It started with about a dozen people and now we regularly get 20-25. And we've grown from two jams monthly to at least three.

The founders of our group started with posts on Meetup.

Then, you have to find a venue -- a coffee shop, restaurant, community center -- someplace that will welcome you and where people feel safe playing with strangers. Most places will either charge a fee, or if it's a place that serves food, expect you to buy something (which is fair; you're using their space).

We got lucky. Our founder knew the pastor at a local church and she lets us use a classroom for free. We pass the hat and give an offering to the church; most people pitch in $3-$5 and it usually amounts to $50-100 per jam.

Finally, song book. You can assemble a book from online sources (Doctor Uke, San Jose Uke Club, etc.) or the Daily Ukulele, for instance. If you go online, you'll probably need to start with a couple dozen basic songs and then make copies and put them in three-ring binders. (Oh, and you'll need to ask participants to bring music stands.)

If you use Daily Ukulele, you may ask people to buy and bring copies.

Another option is using a projector, but that would depend on where you play.

The group also needs a defined leader, which may be you. Someone to serve as point of contact, make sure the venue is available, handle social media (a Facebook page will be essential at some point), collect email addresses, etc. We're now at the stage where we have separate people lining up outside appearances, handling social media, etc. None of the tasks is very time-consuming because we split them up.

Our group just celebrated its fifth anniversary and we're in demand to play at senior center and the like. We've almost outgrown our space. Much of our success stems from the founders, who make the goal of every jam to be so enjoyable that everybody wants to come to the next one.

Those are a few tips. I'm sure others who've started groups have plenty of additional ideas.
 

Cornfield

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We found a perfect spot to have a regular strum, a local pizza place that has a nice family atmosphere and serves a variety of liquid refreshments (beer). It does not have ASCAP or BMI license. Has this been a problem for other ukulele strum groups?
 

RafterGirl

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I attend three local ukulele groups. One meets at an over 55 retirement community clubhouse, and the other two meet at public libraries. Two of the groups have a setlist of songs that we play each month. There is often a theme for the songs, but not always. The group leaders pick the songs, and people can either print out the music or download it to a tablet, plus it's also projected at the jam. These two groups have some learning aspects to them and are led by people who also teach ukulele locally. The last group is an informal song circle. We use the Daily Ukulele book and people bring copies of other music to share. It's a much smaller ( 5-10 ) group. The two more formal groups often have 20-50 participants. We communicate via Meet-up, Google groups, Facebook etc.

Finding a consistent venue with a big enough room, some chairs, decent sound quality, and a way to project, that doesn't cost a lot can be a challenge.
 

bunnyf

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I moved back to FL and found myself in an area that was quite far from any jams. In SLO, I had several jams available to me weekly and I sorely missed them. I am not a leader or organizer type, nor am I a particularly accomplished player and certainly no more than a mediocre singer, but I quickly realized that if I wanted to play with others I needed to start a group.
As for getting members, I found meetup to be the easiest most effective method. Lots of people already use this website and it is also an easy way to communicate with members. It does cost a bit but you can set it up to take small donations to keep it going. Others use “Next door____”, which is free but much less well known. You can also use the social part of craigslist and its free but far less folks find it. Signs up in music store or libraries also work but for me “meetup” has just been super easy. Now that we have lots of members, we don’t really need it and could move to something like a facebook page, just to keep in contact with members, but I don’t mind the expense of meetup for the convenience I get.
As to venues, we play at a large gazebo in an underused local park at no cost to us. We are lucky to have great weather and folks enjoy playing outside. I think the bit of hambone in all of us likes to be out in public (another group about 1hr away plays at a beach pavilion and is also super popular, probably partly for the same reason). Alternatively, here in Florida, we are rife with old folks (like me), and lots of folks have clubhouses in their community or in some parks (for a fee) where you can play in a more private, climate controlled situation. I have always liked the use of a bar or casual restaurant as a convivial setting to make music, but this will take a little more effort to work out. There is usually a place that has some slow times and would be open to having someone. The one hassle that kept me from doing this is the potential for problems with playing non-original material. Being in a tourist area, the likelihood of enforcement might be greater than one would expect. People have mentioned libraries but I am sure we are too raucous for that venue.
As for music, I select it (with group input) and put it in “dropbox” for folks to access. We go around the circle in order and select a song to play. My group is an open acoustic jam for all instruments but with a solid core of ukers. I like the mix. Its more interesting. Other local groups use “The Daily Ukulele” which is certainly an easy way to go, but I find it more interesting to have a different mix of music. There are lots of pre-made songbooks from existing groups, “Ukulele Wednesdays” (London based in pub, free download) is an excellent example.
Good luck with your group. If I ccould do it, so can you. Be sure to make it fun for yourself, otherwise what’s the point.
 

hendulele

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We found a perfect spot to have a regular strum, a local pizza place that has a nice family atmosphere and serves a variety of liquid refreshments (beer). It does not have ASCAP or BMI license. Has this been a problem for other ukulele strum groups?

We haven't had an issue when we play our monthly gigs at a bottle shop or when we play at street festivals where merch is sold.
 

Cornfield

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It looks like we will have a room to ourselves at a downtown Aurora, IL restaurant. The current consensus is that we would meet at 7-9:30 PM on the second Thursday of each month. There is lots of well lighted free parking in the area.
This way, we would not have conflicts with weeks that contain, New Years, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.


If you are interested in joining the group, please send me a message.
 

hendulele

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Much success to you! A restaurant with free parking is an excellent location to start a group.
 

Mo So

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We found a perfect spot to have a regular strum, a local pizza place that has a nice family atmosphere and serves a variety of liquid refreshments (beer). It does not have ASCAP or BMI license. Has this been a problem for other ukulele strum groups?
In my area the BMI and ASCAP "police" have come down hard on small venues and at least half of the small coffeehouses and brewhouses that had informal music and jams have stopped allowing it. About 1/3 of the small music venues have likewise closed (also in part due to covid) with no plans to reopen or restart music.