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Inaugural Music City Uke Fest Is Set For Franklin in August

by Rich and Laura Lynch

With the multi-instrumentalist, multi-talented, featured ukulele artist Lil' Rev on hand - MCUF 2024 promises to blow your socks off from August 1st through 4th when the Inaugural Music City Uke Fest will lift off just south of Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee. Festivities begin at Lane Music Store on Galleria Boulevard on Thursday evening and get into full swing all day and night on Friday and Saturday at Liberty Hall in The Factory at Franklin. The festival culminates on Sunday morning with a feel-good sing-a-long. Check their website to confirm locations, accommodations, schedule and ticket availability. We took a few minutes with MCUF founder and organizer Melanie Ching, aka "UkuMele" to discuss the allure of the ukulele and what to expect at their first major event.

MCN: Music City U.S.A. - or, Nashville, Tennessee - is known for supporting a lot of genres. Of course, there's the ever-ubiquitous country music. But, we are also known for bluegrass, Christian and the plethora of singer-songwriters who are featured in countless rounds every day of the week in the region. When did you get the idea to throw the ukulele's hat in the ring?

Melanie, aka UkuMele: I attended the Memphis Uke 'N Roll Jamboree in April 2022 and was so excited and inspired to bring a ukulele festival to "Music City, USA"! I started planning Music City Uke Fest over two years ago!

MCN: Quite surprisingly, there is now a circuit of Ukulele festivals in the U.S. and beyond. How cognizant did you have to be in order to slot in your celebration of the uke and not step on the toes of any of those other fests? Did you take note of them at all when choosing who you wanted to book the MCUF?

UkuMele: There certainly are a plethora of ukulele festivals nationwide and internationally! I did research calendars of ukulele festivals and chose a weekend that was free & clear when I booked my venue and artists over a year ago. (As it turns out, there is another uke fest the same weekend now, in another state.) I met my artists at another festival that I attended and asked them to perform at MCUF. They were all on board very quickly!

MCN: What do you think accounts for the instrument's continued and growing popularity around the world?

UkuMele: The ukulele is rapidly growing in popularity largely because of it's portability and ease with learning to play. There were more than 1.7 million ukuleles sold in the U.S. in 2021. Globally, it is reported that ukulele sales were over $5488 million US dollars in 2022. The ukulele is also becoming increasingly poplular because of local ukulele clubs and more events & festivals.

Also, you can purchase a starter ukulele from around $40 and graduate to custom built ukuleles costing $1,000's! We laughingly say, once you start, you will get "UAS"--Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome. You can never have enough ukuleles!

MCN: Now, this isn't your first rodeo so to speak. You held a pre-cursor event in 2023 called the Ukulele Extravaganza. What did you learn from putting that together? Was that a proving ground or a way to kind of prepare for this bigger undertaking that is actually now a multi-day and multi-venue event?

UkuMele: Yes, I did organize the "Ukulele Extravaganza" with Andrew Molina as headliner in August 2023. I learned that you have to promote, promote, promote your event early and keep it in the forefront. Also, choice of venue is very key. This was a stand-alone ukulele concert and I think that a multi-day festival with a variety of activities, including concerts, workshops, jam sessions, open mic, etc. is more appealing to the ukulele community. Ukulele players like to be actively involved in ukulele festivals, so open mic and jam sessions are very popular!

MCN: What are you most excited about for this year's Music City Uke Fest?

UkuMele: I'm so jazzed about our stellar lineup: Lil' Rev, Dani Joy & Perry Stauffer, The Birdwatchers, Ukulele (Greg) Gent, Art Hopkins, & The Ukedelics! We have amazing Raffle items with ukuleles from KoAloha, Kala, Klos, & Flight brands. 10% of Raffle ticket sales and other donations will go to Maui Food Bank, our chosen charity, dear to my heart as we remember the wildfires there from a year ago. We want to give back to the community as we continue to spread Aloha with the ukulele and gather the ukulele ohana (family) together at Music City Uke Fest 2024! Get your tickets now, you don't want to miss out! Check out our website at: MusicCityUkeFest.net

Related Links: For more information on the MUSIC CITY UKE FEST and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Music City Uke Fest | Ukulele Extravaganza Plays For Maui Fire Relief in Franklin


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