Utah Uke Fest gets old, new players making music

In Music
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While the ukulele may not seem like the most common instrument, interest in it is growing as people of all ages pick them up and start strumming.

The Utah Uke Fest showcased the versatility of the instrument and highlighted the community that surrounds it at the sixth annual event in Highland on Saturday.

“Communities just tend to pop up around the instrument, more so than other instruments,” M. Ryan Taylor, organizer of the Utah Uke Fest, said. “You don’t generally find guitar jam groups and you don’t find piano societies, or those other things where all sorts of people get together to play.”

Taylor said he was interested in starting the Utah Uke Fest years ago because he saw the interest level people in the community had when he started teaching classes.

“I realized it wasn’t just kids that were interested,” he said. “We had almost 70 people register for that first camp that we did, and we had a pretty even mix of kids, teenagers, adults and seniors. So it was just all over the spectrum as far as people were interested.”

Now Taylor teaches classes for youth and leads an ensemble, UFO HUM. The festival has also expanded to include more classes and opportunities.

The festival includes classes aimed toward ukulele players of various skill, ukulele jams, workshops, classes, an open mic and ends with a concert. This years concert featured UFO HUM, Cathy Cash, West Side Pride and The Naked Waiters.

As classes let out and in between festivities, participants played their instruments, sharing techniques and tricks with each other.

“I love the community aspect of it really,” Taylor said. “I make friends most naturally over music, so for me the ukulele is the perfect instrument for that.”

Taylor’s wife, Dixie, said the ukulele also presents a less-intimidating front than other instruments.

“They are easy to hold, and they just have for strings, which makes it a lot more accessible for a beginner than any other instrument even a guitar,” she said.

Amy Allred, an Orem resident and UFO HUM member, said she originally started playing the ukulele five years ago because it seemed like a simple instrument to learn. Since then, she has found a community.

“It introduces people to music that may not be familiar with it. And with something like this festival, we try to teach a lot of different classes at different levels so everyone can learn something new,” she said.

Allred said there are also a wide variety of things that can be done with the instrument and the festival looks to cater to that with a range of classes.

“That’s what’s fun with the ukulele,” she said, “It’s pretty simple and you can play pretty simple stuff, but you can make it fancy and learn new stuff.”

Roy resident Daniel Hulbert has been participating in and teaching a build-your-own ukulele workshop at the festival for many years.

Hulbert specializes in making ukuleles out of unique items and shares the creations through his . He also makes plans that are available online should people want to try their hand at instrument building.

“I just think it’s fun to make stuff and make a piece of art that at the end you can play,” he said.

Shelby Slade covers community events, issues and stories for the Daily Herald.

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