Last Sunday I attended the Second Annual Allegheny Ukulele Soiree. It is an all day festival put on by the Allegheny Ukulele Kollective in Altoona, PA. There is an optional concert that evening.
It was held on the campus of Penn State in Altoona in the Misciagna Family Center for the Performing Arts. The festival includes workshops for all levels of ukulele players, jams, open mics and the “Petting Zoo” where anyone attending can sample ukuleles from Kala to Collings. All this for $10. I don’t think there is a better value for a ukulele player today.
When I arrived on Sunday, March 22, 2015, a friendly group of people checked me in and gave me a packet that explained what was available that day. The first thing I needed to figure out was if I was a beginning player or more beginning/intermediate. This is important as if I took the wrong class it might over my head or I might be bored. I decided, by following their description of different skill levels in the booklet, that I am an Advanced Beginner/Intermediate player. I have only been playing five months but fortunately for me the classes designed for that level were perfect for me. I learned a lot and have plenty to work on at home.
The classes were taught by members of the Kollective as well as those performing that evening in concert. It is really a great group of people who are accepting of everyone no matter what their age or skill level. I felt welcomed and comfortable.
After two workshops I needed to rest my left hand so I went to a café on campus for lunch and returned to attend the open jam. The songs were displayed on an overhead projector and led by Lucy, also a member of the Kollective. A good time was had by all. There was also an open mic, which I did not take part in, but next year I will.
There are also movies shown during the day that are about the ukulele and there was a vendor area where instruments and accessories were sold. All of this was in the same building which I found very convenient. It was cold that day but it didn’t matter as I only had to leave the building to get lunch. Some people packed a lunch so they were there the entire day enjoying the atmosphere and great people.
I took a quick trip back to my hotel to drop off my ukulele and get dinner. I had paid the extra $5 to attend the concert that night. It was held in a room that could accommodate 75 people and was sold out. I was especially excited about seeing Victoria Vox as she is from Baltimore, MD, which is near where I live in Northern Virginia, and I have a couple of her albums.
Colin Coleman opened the concert with three songs. He is a founding member of the Kollective, taught one of my classes and is a skilled player.
Stuart Fuchs performed next. Not only is he a skilled musician but he can sing and really interacts with the audience well. I really enjoyed his performance and hope to see him again in concert.
Victoria Vox was the last act. This girl can sing, play and does a great job relating to her audience. That fact that she is cute as a button doesn’t hurt either. She has a great personality and can “play” the mouth trumpet. I am not sure how she does it but she can make a trumpet sound with her mouth that sounds just like a trumpet. When she combines a great voice, fantastic ukulele skills and the trumpet sound she is a one woman band. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance and hope to see her again soon as she performs all over the world and locally. Keep your eyes and ears open for her as her popularity will continue to grow.
All in all it was a great day. I met some great people, learned a lot and just had fun. Isn’t that what the ukulele is about in the first place? The only suggestion I heard from others is that they wanted the Soiree to be two days long. We will have to wait until next year to see if the Kollective can make that happen.
Until next time, keep playing!