Review- Fifth Annual Allegheny Ukulele Soiree

This last weekend, April 20-22, 2018, I attended the Fifth Annual Allegheny Ukulele Soiree. It is a two-day festival put on by the Allegheny Ukulele Kollective. This is the fourth one I have attended in the last five years of the Soiree’s existence.

It was held at the Laurel Lodge in Duncansville, PA. near Altoona. The festival included workshops for all levels of ukulele players, jams, open mics and two concerts.

The workshops were taught by all the performers as well as a couple of clinicians. I attended many workshops and learned something new in each one. They were all well attended by an enthusiastic group of people who love playing the ukulele and want to grow as musicians.

As I did last year, I took advantage of the dining package which allowed me to stay at the lodge all day on Saturday. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were provided and I got to hang out with fellow uke players the entire day without having to leave to find a place to eat.

There was a vendor area where instruments and accessories were sold. Mim’s Ukes was there as well as Mainland Ukes, The Hug Strap, Dewdrop Ukuleles, Leis & Things by Debi and Adaptive Ukulele System. All of this was in the same building which I found very convenient. The lodge is in the foothills which provided us with a fantastic view and plenty of room to take classes and hang out.

I stayed after registration for the Friday evening concert which featured The Dirty Hillers, Mim and Danielle Ate the Sandwich. It was so much fun! They are all so talented and personable plus they were instructors for the weekend.

Saturday was packed with workshops, meals and an evening concert. The performers for that evening were the Hula Class, Jim D’Ville and Craig Chee/Sarah Maisel. They are all great performers. A fun time was had by all.

There were also drawings for different prizes Friday and Saturday night at each concert. Kala and Ohana donated ukes which were raffled off Saturday evening.

For the third year in a row the Soiree was a two-day event. I know putting on something like this is a lot of work for many people not the least of which is Mike Holzer. He is the Allegheny Ukes Co-Director and Chief Uke Evangelist. He has a great team of people who help put this together and run it for the weekend. Add in the performers and instructors and it is as close to uke heaven as you will get.

I love what Mike and the Kollective have done in the last five years with the Soiree. It is a great value and provides a fun atmosphere to meet others and to learn. This year there were nearly 150 people signed up. It was sold out! The Soiree has grown so much that next year it is going to be on a different weekend and at a different place.

Mark your calendars and plan ahead. The dates are May 3-5, 2019. It will be held at the Altoona Grand Hotel. I have checked it out on the web. This is a great facility with all the amenities and it will allow the Soiree to grow for many years to come. Can’t wait!

My suggestion is to plan for next years event now. It will be the 6th year of the Soiree and who knows what they will come up with? I am sure it will be great!

 

The Allegheny Ukelele Soiree- Year 3

This last weekend, April 15-17, 2016, I attended the Third Annual Allegheny Ukulele Soiree. It was a two day festival put on by the Allegheny Ukulele Kollective.

It was held at the Laurel Lodge in Duncansville, PA. near Altoona. The festival included workshops for all levels of ukulele players, jams, open mics and the “Petting Zoo” where anyone attending can sample ukuleles from Kala to Mya Moe.

When I arrived on Friday, April 15, at 5:30 p.m. for registration I was greeted by a friendly group of people who checked me in and gave me a packet that explained what was available that weekend. There were workshops on Saturday and Sunday, for all uke players (beginning to advanced), as well as concerts Friday and Saturday evening.

The first thing I needed to figure out was what level player I am. 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 Intermediate player. The classes I took were perfect for that level. I understood what was being taught and never felt any of the teachers were teaching over my head.

The classes were taught by members of the Kollective as well as those performing at the concerts. It is a really great group of people who are accepting of everyone no matter what their age or skill level. I felt welcomed and comfortable.

This year I took advantage of the dining package which allowed me to stay at the lodge all day on Saturday. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were prepared by the lodge’s staff and I got to hang out with fellow uke players the entire day without having to leave to find a place to eat.

There were 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. The lodge is in the foothills which provided us with a fantastic view and plenty of room to take classes and hang out.

I stayed after registration for the Friday evening concert which featured Mim, Rachel Manke and Gerald Ross. It was so much fun! They are all so talented and personable plus they were instructors for the weekend.

Saturday was packed with workshops, meals and an evening concert. The performers for that evening were Skye ZentzGerald Ross and Paul Hemmings. They were all great performers. A great time was had by all.

There were also drawings for different ukulele’s Friday and Saturday night. I purchased a “few” tickets and ended up winning the uke I really wanted- Kala’s new Baritone Thin Line. Can you say excited?

Last year was a one day event. Many people wanted a two day Soiree and it happened. I know putting on something like this is a lot of work for many people not the least of which is Mike Holzer. He is the Allegheny Ukes Co-Director and Chief Uke Evangelist. He had a great team of people who helped put this together and run it for the weekend. Add in the performers and instructors and it is as close to uke heaven as you will get.

My suggestion is to plan ahead for next years event. It will be the 4th year of the Soiree and who knows what they will come up with? I am sure it will be great!

The Allegheny Ukulele Soiree- Year 2

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!

First Ukulele Festival!

I have played the ukulele for about five months. In that time I have not been able to jam with other players or interact in any way. That is about to change!

This coming Sunday, March 22, is the Allegheny Ukulele Soiree in Altoona, PA. I have registered for the Soiree as well as the concert on Sunday evening. I am really looking forward to hearing Victoria Vox!

In the past I participated in a large bluegrass camp, when I was playing my Martin HD-28, so I know there will be much to learn and many people to meet. As a whole the camp/festival experience is really fun.

Unfortunately, it will be cold so I have to leave my Hawaiian shirt home, but my Kamaka soprano ukulele, in its Rock Steady gig bag, will be with me. There will be workshops to attend and other ukuleles to try. If you are going to attend hopefully we will be able to say “hi” to one another.

There will be a new post about my experience after the Soiree and concert ends. Until then, keep playing!