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The ukulele has three obvious selling points: It’s affordable, it’s easy to carry, and it’s even easier to carry. It also has star power: Celebrities like Zoe Deschanel, George Clooney, and George Harrison have been known to pick up the mighty little instrument every now and then. But the best part about the ukulele? It turns average folks into musicians, and the residents of Buffalo, New York can attest to that.
The city is home to a number of beginner ukulele clubs, including the Buffalo Ukulele Club. With a whopping 296 members, the group is made up of ukulele enthusiasts of all levels and ages. All you need to sign up is a ukulele and the desire to have fun, according to the group. Don’t have a uke? No problem. The club provides spares for those who don’t yet own their first ukulele. Uke enthusiasts of all skill levels are welcome to join in on the monthly meetings, taking place every Thursday of the month at the Gloria Parks Community Center at 3234 Main St., Buffalo, New York from 6:45pm until 8:15pm.
If sitting quietly and enjoying someone else perform is more your thing, you’ll find the occasional uke player in a bar or café, as well as pro performances at one of Buffalo’s many venues.
In 2017, Uke-Hunt – Me First and The Gimme Gimmes’ vocalist Spike Slawson’s latest cover band – performed at Buffalo’s Mohawk Place at 47 E. Mohwak Street. The group, which started out as Slawson learning and arranging some of his favourite classic songs for the ukulele on his own, eventually evolved into added musicians and a layered patchwork of ukulele, saxophone, glockenspiel, stylophone, organ and standup bass. The result was Uke-Hunt, and their performance in Buffalo was a classy, 18+, lounge/soul vibe event that, when paired with a nice cocktail, made you feel like you were relaxing in the middle of a tiki bar somewhere in Hawaii.
But while Buffalo is definitely not lacking in ukulele performances or clubs, the city does have a shortage of uke festivals. The closest is the famous Ashokan Uke Fest, which runs around May of every year. The annual family-friendly weekend retreat for ukulele players of all skill levels features workshops, concerts, jam sessions, great food and plenty of fun. Tuition into the event includes all classes, meals and a concert by Ashokan Music and Dance Camp’s world-class staff. Saturday night’s concert features performances by Daniel Ward, Heidi Swedberg, Kevin Carroll, Fred Sokolow, Lynn Sokolow, Gerald Ross and Ben Hassenger.
Children and teens are welcome to attend with a guardian, and youth discounts and scholarships are also available.
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