Compiled by Audrey Coleman
March 1–4, 2018 | Kernville, California
Dubbed “the Pied Piper of the ukulele” (Pinterest), Kevin Carroll, a self-described edUKEcator, brings his blues take on the ukulele to Kernville, California. His partner-organizer for the festival is harmonica player Catfish Jack Chauvin, who has performed with notable blues artists. There will be opportunities to learn and practice with both Kevin and Catfish Jack to hone your chops on both instruments during two full days of instruction addressing all levels of proficiency, and three evenings of “unfettered ukulele merriment” including instruction. From Thursday night through Sunday morning, participants will eat, sleep, learn, and play at the quaint and lovely Pine Cone Inn. On Saturday night, participants can join town residents for a downtown community concert. And in case you get antsy, two other places of interest are the Starlite Lounge and Kern River Brewing Company, both a short walk from the hotel. Kernville is an hour’s drive from Bakersfield, a long-time country music center that you may want to visit along the way.
March 8–11, 2018 | Hidden Valley Institute of the Arts, Carmel Valley, California
The Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz hosts its 8th annual Smoldering Uke winter retreat event at the Hidden Valley Music Seminars campus in beautiful Carmel Valley, California. The instructors haven’t been revealed yet, but keep an eye on the website for announcements. This year, each paid attendee will receive a printed booklet containing handouts and song sheets for all the workshops and jams. Free time between workshops will allow attendees to jam with each other, make new friends, or head off for local wine tasting, sightseeing, etc. Evening events are in the works, but not yet finalized. 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 prefer to provide their own overnight lodgings.
March 10–11, 2018 | Geraldine, New Zealand
Festival organizers, Hugh and Fi McCafferty, are delighted to be bringing Laurie Kallevig all the way from Kolkata, India, to share with us the music and stories of her work with Survivor Girl Ukulele Band in person. (Plus, there’ll be copies of the newly-pressed and recently crowdfunded SGUB CDs for sale.) Saturday will see ukulele bands from around New Zealand and Australia perform on the big outdoor stage, buskers will entertain at the Farmers’ Market, and they’ll all have a go at the Big Strum with open mic opportunities, too. The weekend will finish up with some Hot Gospel at the pub on Sunday morning. Visit Geraldine Ukefest on Facebook for details or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 16–20, 2018 | Pu’u O Hoku Ranch and Halawa Valley, Molokai, Hawaii
This ukulele gathering on a 14,000-acre working ranch offers immersion in old-style Hawaiian music and culture. Two of the instructors impart island culture as they coach participants in playing techniques. Lono is an inspirational interpreter and composer of old-style music who regales audiences with stories of island life. Molokai-born Kalei Gamiao has toured the U.S. mainland and Asia, performing and teaching ukulele. Popular uke performers and teachers Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel join in leading workshops and tutorials. Saturday’s evening concert will showcase the talents of these instructors. Participants stay in the comfortable 1930s-era Hawaiian Lodge located on the ranch premises, and will partake of meals prepared with foods harvested by the local community. Each morning will begin with a sunrise drive to the Halawa Valley for swimming, yoga, and music.
April 20–22, 2018 | Altoona, Pennsylvania
Savor springtime in the foothills of the Alleghenies, the setting for this three-day soirée. Twenty workshops will address all skill levels, including a special beginners’ track with four tailored classes. On the faculty this year are acclaimed instructors/performers Sarah Maisel, Craig Chee, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Jim D’Ville, and Mim of Mim’s Ukes. Two concerts will display their talents as well as those of the Dirty Hillers, a uke-cello duo from the Philadelphia area. Vendor displays and enticing raffles will fill out the program. The official accommodations, Laurel Lodge, boasts walkways, bridges, a gazebo, and a view of the lovely forested mountains and adjacent valley. Comfortable hotels located nearby are another lodging option. Participants may take their meals at the Lodge or at restaurants in the area.
April 27–29, 2018 | Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Artists/instructors confirmed to date are blues and jazz uker Abe Lagrimas Jr., uke festival couple par excellence Sarah Maisel and Craig Chee, Seattle-based swing uker Casey MacGill, Oahu-born master of the contemporary Hawaiian uke sound Kalei Gamiao, and Ruby & Smith, who play vintage jazz, roots, blues, folk, and original tunes. The weekend kicks off with a Friday evening Ukulele Gala Concert. In addition to workshops, participants will jam joyfully and, if interested, visit the marketplace featuring all things ukulele.
April 29, 2018 | Union City, California
The mainland’s longest-running ukulele festival returns for the 24th year and this time it’s at a new location. The Center for the Performing Arts at Union City’s James Logan High School will host the event, which is part ukulele festival and part cultural event for the Northern California Pacific Islander community. Workshops, jams, and concert performances are planned for 10:45 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
May 2–5, 2018 | Reno, Nevada
With its 10th anniversary happening, there are big changes at this year’s Reno Ukulele Festival, with the addition of an extra day of workshops and a new location. The instructor roster features several ukulele couples: festival globetrotters Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel; eclectic singer-songwriter Victoria Vox and her musical partner guitarist-vocalist Jack Maher; guitar-uke duo Victor & Penny, who specialize in old-time songs; veteran teachers Jim and Liz Beloff; and multi-genre uke-banjo musicians Aaron and Nicole Keim. The ukulele instructor singles are equally noteworthy: Grammy-winning musician and producer Daniel Ho, multi-instrumentalist Abe Lagrimas Jr., celebrated teacher Peter Luongo, and jazz master Michael Powers. Festival highlights include master classes led by Maisel, Lagrimas Jr., and Ho, intermediate workshops taught by Jim and Liz Beloff, and a chance to play in the Luongo Ukulele Ensemble. Workshops, concerts, and jams all take place in the expansive, smoke-free Tuscany Ballroom of the Peppermill Resort Spa.
May 2–6, 2018| Asilomar, California
This year the theme is “The Summer of Love” (yes, we are a year late!). Morning workshops are planned as three consecutive sessions, while most afternoon classes have a stand-alone format. Instructors confirmed to date are Phil Doleman, author of How Music Works on the Ukulele; Kevin Carroll, Santa Cruz-based publisher of the Uke News; songwriter-instrumentalist Rhan Wilson and songwriter-partner Rick Zeek; Dave Egan, who specializes in ukulele ergonomics among other areas; and ever-valuable learning resource Jim D’Ville. Special program features include Dave Egan’s Recording Studio, where participants will learn how to produce a high-quality recording; a chance to perform with the multi-instrument back-up outfit the Flea by Night Band; and an opportunity to be part of Nancy Piver’s ragtime ukulele ensemble. Those needing a breather should savor the glories of Asilomar, which is steps away from one of the most beautiful beaches in California and a couple of miles down the road from the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. Consult the website for information on additional faculty members and special events.
May 11–13, 2018 | Lansing, Michigan
Ukulele virtuoso and renowned educator James Hill and his musical collaborator/life partner cellist Anne Janelle head the performer lineup for Lansing’s tribute to the four-stringed wonder. The remaining faculty members will be confirmed in coming weeks. The setting is bustling Old Town Lansing. The official Mighty Uke Day lodging facility is the Quality Inn University, but the website will provide information on alternatives, including bed and breakfasts, hotels, and campgrounds. Consult the website beginning in April to find out additional information and to download songs to be used during the weekend.
May 18–20, 2018 | Las Cruces, New Mexico
On the roster of instructor/performers are sought-after uke couple Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel, uke-harmonica-blues master Lil’ Rev, singer-songwriter-uker Mark Baker, and Rachel Manke, called “one of the brightest stars in the ukulele universe.” Workshops for all skill levels are scheduled for Saturday (morning and afternoon) and Sunday (morning). Descriptions will appear on the website by April. Friday evening features a concert by the instructor/performers. During Saturday lunch, participants will be able to highlight their talents at an open mic. A Saturday evening jam session is designed to involve players at all levels. Once again, the festival venue is the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, where, between uke events, attendees can explore exhibits ranging from art and history to details about goats and milking cows.
May 25–28, 2018 | Olivebridge, New York
Nestled in the Catskill Mountains amid forests, meadows, and streams, Ashokan Center provides an inspirational setting for making music. The ukulele learning experience draws on the talents of illustrious instructors/performers Daniel Ward, Heidi Swedberg, Kevin Carroll, Fred Sokolow, Lynn Sokolow, Ben Hassenger, and festival organizer Gerald Ross. The Canter’s Esopus Lodge houses the dining hall and classrooms. The lodge’s performance hall, designed with beautiful vaulted ceilings, contains a large stage, dance floor, and sound equipment. For descriptions of each instructor’s workshops, consult the Festival website early in 2018.
May 25–27, 2018 | Graz, Austria
You are probably familiar with Vienna, Austria, but how about Graz? This storybook-beautiful city, located 97 miles southwest of the capital (a two-hour drive), is hosting a major ukulele event. Check out the array of workshops and performances. Some performers are well-known to most Ukulele readers: James Hill and Anne Janelle serenade Austrians with their blend of ukulele and cello, and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will entertain the crowds with its unique brand of music and mirth. Others in the lineup will be new to ukers on this side of the Atlantic. Lancashire-born Andy Eastwood is a vaudeville performer with prowess on the ukulele and banjolele. Scheduled duos include the jazz-oriented Ukelites, the intriguing Mersey Belles, and the UkulelelebOboys. Among the trio ares Ukus in Fabula, Italian musicians whose genres range from reggae to rock, and Britain’s multi-genre League of Ukulele Gentlemen. The Austrian quartet Chilifish, which plays about a dozen instruments from the ukulele to the didgeridoo and jaw harp, will also perform, as will the Graz-based Kaisers Ukulelen Combo. Many of these artists will lead workshops. The Festival’s assembly of musical talent will perform in concerts at two picture-perfect outdoor venues: Kasemattenbuehne and Burggarten Orangerie.
June 6–10, 2018 | Napa, California
The area alongside Lake Berryessa, located in the winery-studded Napa Valley and backed by the majestic Sierra Mountains, offers a bucolic setting for a few days of musical immersion. Family-friendly Camp Oo-Koo-Lay-Lay will take place in the same location as the 2017 event. At publication deadline, the organizers hadn’t posted 2018 information, but it should be forthcoming by the new year, so keep an eye on the website or sign up for email updates. In the meantime, readers can see highlights from 2017 and get a feel for the event via the website.
June 22–24, 2018 | Olivet, Michigan
Driving to Olivet from Chicago takes three hours, from Grand Rapids it takes 75 minutes, and from Lansing a mere 30 minutes. The travel time is well worth it for a chance to tap the ukulele wisdom of an impressive group of performers/instructors: Heidi Swedberg, Victoria Vox, Daniel Ward, Andy Wilson, Sandy Weltman, Craig Chee, Neal Chin, Jim D’Ville, Cathy Fink, Ben Hassenger, Sarah Maisel, Marcy Marxer, Lil’ Rev, Gerald Ross, Melissa Sigh, and Frank Youngman. Historic Olivet College, founded in 1844, is the event venue and will provide accommodation in Shipherd Hall (not a typo), an air-conditioned student dormitory. More information can be found on the website.