For some time now, I’ve wanted to start my own ukulele club so that I can craft and steer it the way I like. As I love preparing themed concerts for the piano, why not research, arrange, and organise songs on a theme for ukulele players? By theme, I mean relating to the time of the year (holiday) or current events.
I love to perform. Why not work on a solid program and perform in different venues for different occasions? I get such a buzz from playing in front of an audience that I just want to share that adrenalin boost with others. Playing an uke and looking at the audience is way different from sitting at the piano and staring at the sheet music.
I love to travel. Why not travel with fellow ukulele players that I enjoy playing with? Members of my London club have organised day trips and overnight trips to different parts of England. Some were adventurous to go to Ireland with me. Perhaps others may come to Boston.
I love going to festivals. It combines traveling with interesting workshops, new repertoire, gigging, flashmobs, and more, if the Irish Hooley in Dun Laoghaire is an example. The annual ukulele festival in Hawaii rotates to different islands.
I have access to a wonderful space used by artists. It is convenient for me and other local residents, with visitor parking and walking distance to a metro station for others. It is bright with three huge windows on two sides. It is spacious: 14.5 x 23 ft with 10.5 ft ceilings. If I can get a projector, I can use the big white wall. If not, everyone can bring iPads as there’s wifi connection from upstairs. There are three long rectangular tables and many folding chairs.
It just so happens that the super blue blood moon will appear on Wednesday 31st January 2018 — when we will meet for the first time. The theme will be moon. I feel like making thumbprint cookies and filling them with raspberry jam and marmalade. Maybe we will be known as the Moon Jammers, for jamming on a full-moon’s night. Who knows?
Most ukulele clubs I’ve visited have the following things in common:
- Meet regularly: the same day of the week at the same time, same location
- Public or semi-public place: restaurant, hotel, pub, library, community centre
- Start with songs with easy chords (C, F, G or G7) to warm up. Beginners come to this and may leave before the second half.
- Have a break. For some, it’s several short breaks. For others, it’s a long break to socialise.
- Take requests.
- Have song sheets everyone has access to.
- Use an overhead projector (beamer) or bring or share iPad (tablets, smartphones) or printed sheets. Some people even bind their song sheets and bring music stands!
- Some kind of social media presence: website, Facebook, Meet-up, newsletter
- Non-ukulele players: drummer, bass player, etc.
- A leader
- The leader uses a microphone, amplifier, ukulele with a pick-up
Googling “starting ukulele club” will get you plenty of advice. GotaUkulele divides the topics into three: venue and time, promotion, organisation. Is it really THAT simple? If so, ukulele clubs should be sprouting everywhere!
UkuleleHunt gets several club founders to share their best practices in the UK. I disagree with the Rules. I do welcome other instruments for variety. My club in London even has members who play the harmonica, tin whistle, violin, electric bass, ukulele bass, flute, accordeon, and drums! Nearly every member has a kazoo for emergency purposes.
UkuleleClubs has summarised it well for me, including a link to how to lead a group in jamming. I scheduled my summer trip to attend a session in Amsterdam, where the founder of the Ukulele Club of Amsterdam led an intimate group in a boutique hotel. I was overjoyed to see an upright piano behind her.
There’s even a book called “How to Start and Grow an Ukulele Group” — 189 pages of passionate sharing! Amazon suggests bundling this 2017 copyrighted book with “Retire and Get a Ukulele.”
Tavit shares his experience and advice in a four-page PDF. He gave his group a catchy name “In Bed By Ten” or IBBT for short. I like that. Members of the London Hanwell Ukulele Group affectionately call themselves HUGGERS.
“Town Receives Grant to Start Youth Ukulele Club” convinces me that if I can find a grant to start a club for an underserved community and purchase ukuleles, I’d build a new group of ukulele players. By announcing my first ukulele jam session, I received an enquiry asking about my fees to lead a group of seniors. Coincidentally I’ve been doing that since last September! Next I’ll be giving ukulele workshops to teenagers.