Learn to rock four strings with free lessons at this Torrance ukulele festival – Press Enterprise

It may not be the instrument of choice for many rock stars, but the four-stringed ukulele will be the star the upcoming Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival.

“The ukulele is for everyone. It’s for any age. You can start with just one chord and go from there,” said Mitch Chang, organizer of the event, which returns to the Torrance Cultural Arts Center on Sept. 23-24. A Sept. 22 VIP night is currently sold out.

The festival will include live performances throughout the weekend from more than a dozen well-known ukulele musicians such as Peter Luongo, the former musical director of the Langley Ukulele Ensemble, Hawaii artists Abe Lagrimas Jr. and Corey Fujimoto, Italian musician Ukulollo, Oakland-based performer Ukulenny and others.

The music culminates Sunday with a performance by Hawaiian trio NUE. The closing show will require a separate ticket.

This year, the festival will offer free classes for absolute beginners in the Center’s Nakano Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 23 in the hopes of creating new fans, or maybe even finding the next ukulele star.

“This is an instrument that can convert people. I can bring them into this fun, joyful community and hobby,” said Melanie Kareem, the founder of Get Started Playing Ukulele, who will be teaching some of the free classes.

Festival tickets are not required to attend the free classes, but interested parties will need to either bring a ukulele to the classes or buy an entry-level instrument at the festival. However, Kareem said she will bring about 20 or so ukuleles to lend to her new students.

“The ukulele is such an easy instrument to accomplish, learn a few songs and then be able to spread the joy,” she said.

The Topanga resident teaches ukulele online to beginners and many of her students who are now rocking the four strings didn’t even pick up the ukulele until later in life.

“My focus is teaching retired people,” she said. “People that have never played an instrument in their life. That’s my thing is to bring older adults into this joyful hobby that they can do every day.”

One such student is 55-year-old San Pedro resident Elizabeth Gaydowski, who has been playing the ukulele for about a year.

“I picked it up pretty good,” she said. “Whenever I go to a birthday party, I bring my ukulele and play ‘Happy Birthday.; It’s just so fun to do and I feel pretty happy, like a rock star,” she said with a laugh.

Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival

When: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 23, 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sept. 24 and 2 p.m. Sept. 24 for NUE concert

Where: Torrance Cultural Arts Center, 3330 Civic Center Drive, Torrance

Tickets: $47 general admission Saturday; $27 general admission on Sunday; $25-$150 for the NUE show, $20 students with ID at the door; free for kids ages 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased in advance at losangelesukulelefestival.com.

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