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The ukulele first became popular on the Mainland United States back in 1915. From San Fransisco to New York, record houses were pumping out Hawaiian hits like “Pretty Baby” and “Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula” while music stores in Chicago were advertising Hawaiian music and instruments more than any other kind. In 1926, the ukulele hit peak popularity.
It’s subsequent rise and fall from international cultural phenomenon saw the little instrument go from being an exotic new trend to a common household item since it first arrived on Hawaian shores more than 130 years ago – and right now, it’s having a moment. A big moment.
The mighty little uke seems to be finding a home in all corners of the world and with every age demographic. It has a great sound, a deep-rooted history, and a bright future – especially in Denver, Colorado.
Situated at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is known for its sweeping views and outdoor activities. But it’s also becoming known for its love of the ukulele.
Whether you’re new to the uke or an advanced player, Colorado’s capital has something for everyone. The city’s annual Ukulele Festival – which celebrates new and seasoned players around May of each year – has had crowds of over 1,200 attend the three-day event. Showcasing all things ukulele, Denver’s Ukefest boasts workshops for all levels, master classes with performing artists, community events and concerts featuring top ukulele players in what the city calls “the happiest music festival in Denver”.
Hosted by Swallow Hill Music, the event presents many first time Denver Ukefest performers as well as established artists like Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel, Christopher Davis-Shannon, and Waikiki’s high-energy uke supernova Taimane.
If you’re looking to experience the ukulele in a smaller, more intimate environment, the city also plays host to a number of music groups like the Denver Ukulele Community. Members are comprised of ordinary folk from the Denver area who love to play the ukulele. The group – which meets at Swallow Hill Music Association on the third Saturday of every month at 10:30am – is friendly, passionate about the uke, and welcoming to beginners.
Thinking of going pro? Denver’s Rocky Mountain Ukulele Orchestra is where you should head next. The group is currently on a mission to gather ukulele players who want to take their playing to the next level. With open invitation rehearsals at 6pm every Monday at the Green Mountain United Methodist, the orchestra teaches any ukulele enthusiast – regardless of their skill – what they need to know. The group promises to teach members how to survive a large orchestra, how to play with smaller groups, and even how to become a legendary soloist. And they know what they’re talking about: They’re the largest string orchestra in Denver.
Promoting introductory and advanced music development using the ukulele as their principal instrument,the Rocky Mountain group arranges a diverse rehearsed music repertoire for both solo and ensemble performance, so everyone is welcome. Don’t know a thing about the uke, but want to? Don’t worry. The orchestra nurtures beginner uke players as well as composers, advanced performers, and teachers.
If learning more about the ukulele or enhancing your skills as a performer is your uke-related goal, Denver is where you should be.
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