Learn to strum at Strathmore’s virtual Winter Uke Fest this weekend

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Winter Uke Fest (Part 1)

Have you ever wanted to learn to play the guitar? How about trying ukulele first?

Strathmore hosts its first virtual Winter Uke Fest this Friday through Sunday.

“This is the 13th year, so a long tradition in the mansion and the music center at Strathmore,” Strathmore Director of Education Lauren Campbell told WTOP. “It’s usually much longer, it’s five days and we end with an outdoor concert in the summertime, so we are adapting and warming up the winter here with a virtual event.”

The silver lining of a virtual event is that more people can actually attend.

“We sell out at 115 [attendees in person] but obviously for online we have much more space,” Campbell said. “We have infinite space, so we invite everybody to sign up.”

This weekend’s three-day event includes eight hours of skill-based classes, daily jam sessions, virtual hangout opportunities and showcase concerts by students and faculty.

“We have a really fun weekend planned,” Campbell said. “We have teachers from the UK, Denmark, Hawaii, we have a teacher doing Mexican-American rhythms, local folks teaching beginner and folk rhythms, so there’s really something for everybody.”

Strathmore’s Grammy-winning artistic directors Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer will lead a team of acclaimed guest artist instructors from around the world, including Tobias Elof, Tony Mizen, Jeff Peterson, Sonia De Los Santos, Lori Perine and Liz Brinker.

All experience levels are welcome, but you should buy a uke ahead of time, perhaps from Middle C Music in Tenleytown or House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park.

“If you’ve never picked up a uke before, you should probably take a 30 to 60-minute beginner class on YouTube or something,” Campbell said. “Other than that, you can show up a total beginner, all the way to advanced. Even the advanced folks will find special techniques they can learn like cherry picking or Mexican-American rhythms.”

Participation costs $99, though Strathmore is offering partial scholarships.

“We still have some funding left to provide some scholarship assistance,” Campbell said. “We do not want price to get in the way of anyone’s participation, so just email uke@strathmore.org and let us know if you need a little bit of help with the tuition.”

Registration closes Friday at noon.

“The uke has gained so much popularity in recent years and I really think it’s because it’s accessible,” Campbell said. “The guitar is a little bit more intimidating. … The uke doesn’t hurt your fingers as much as a beginner and it’s just easier, so it’s a great entry point. … You can get to strumming and singing along to your playing in a week or two.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Winter Uke Fest (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

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