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Amanda Palmer – singer-songwriter, ukulele virtuoso and lead vocalist, pianist and lyricist of the duo The Dresdon Dolls – presented an interesting theory in her song “Ukulele Anthem” that, basically, if everyone in the world played the uke there would be world peace. As ukulele enthusiasts, I think we can all agree that’s a movement we’d like to see implemented everywhere.
And San Bernardino – a city in California’s Inland Empire region – is one place that’s proving Palmer’s theory true.
The Southern Californian city is home to a plethora of ukulele events, clubs and festivals. The annual Inland Empire Ukulele Festival has a wide range of music and events available to uke enthusiasts, a large Island-style buffet, and open mics – all for a mere $15. The Loma Linda Ukulele Festival, held every May just 10 minutes from downtown San Bernardino, follows suit with special performers, individual and group performances, buffet lunch and open mics. Entrance is just $5.
Other festivals include San Diego Ukulele Festival, a one and a half hours drive from San Bernardino, and the larger Southern California Ukulele Festival – which includes performances by ukulele clubs, general uke entertainment, craft booths and food vendors – just an hours’ drive from downtown Bernardino.
The ukulele has caught on with a lot of different groups in California, but beginners and seniors in particular find it enjoyable for a number of reasons: It’s versatile, relatively easy to play and easier to transport than a guitar. Probably its greatest appeal, though, is the chance to get together with other like-minded people to learn new songs, practice old favourites and just have fun. And one of the best places to do just that is in one of the many San Bernardino ukulele clubs.
The San Bernardino Group Ukulele is intended for true beginners. Their four-week classes start with all the fundamentals: Simple chords, easy melodies and learning how to read traditional and tablature notations. The tuition for the class is $119, according to its website. Don’t have a ukulele? Don’t worry, the San Bernardino Group will give you one for $35. After the program, you can keep the ukulele, return it for a $20 refund or use the full $35 towards upgrading to a more advanced uke.
There are over 60 clubs of all varieties in the state of California, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for in San Bernardino, you’ll find it close by. You could go to a different ukulele group each day of the week, or even two in one day: One in the morning and one in the afternoon. The Greater Inland Empire alone has an impressive number of ukulele clubs: From as far away as Indio and Fallbrook, there are 12 Senior-based uke groups from Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. If you’re looking for a ukulele community with as much passion as the pros, you’ll find it in California.
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