Bend Ukulele Group History
Bend Ukulele Group (BUGs)
In early 2011, three newcomers to Bend from Santa Cruz came together to play ukuleles. They were soon joined by a few locals, and by June this group had grown to about a dozen folks, meeting in homes once a week to play ukulele. By Fall the group had adopted the name of Bend Ukulele Group (members are called BUGs) and began meeting at the Cascade Brewing Pub. By the end of that first year BUGs had performed at several community events, presented a workshop at the High and Dry Bluegrass Festival, and grown to over 30 members.
Since then, the group has continued to grow in popularity, with over 150 “members”, and 50-80 BUGs of all ages jamming every Tuesday evening from 6:30-8:30 in the banquet room at Kelly D’s Irish Sports Bar. Newcomers of all ages are welcome, no experience (of any kind) necessary. Favorite songs are projected on a large screen to play and/or sing along, with ukuleles available to borrow.
The ukulele makes music accessible, and the underlying sense of fellowship remains the core of BUGs.
Ukulele University evolved from BUGs after several of the members went to a small ukulele festival in Oakridge in 2011, and the idea of hosting a festival in Bend began to take shape. BUGs presented a workshop at the High and Dry Bluegrass Festival and John Hancock, owner of Runway Ranch, invited BUGs to hold the festival at the site, free of charge. Not having a clue as to what it entailed, the newly formed BUGs decided to go for it. The festival was dubbed “Uke U,” with the expectation of maybe 60-75 people showing up. Musicians from California, Idaho, and Oregon were contacted to see if they would come to this little gathering, FOR FREE, since there was no money to pay them. Much to our surprise, most folks said yes. We also had great support from local businesses, whose sponsorship and donations were amazing.
Uke U is proud to be affiliated with Rise Up International, which was established as a non-profit in Bend in 2005 to host ongoing workshops, art and music classes in local schools, summer camps and collaborative events. Rise Up is operated by an amazing collective of local volunteers, artists, activists and musicians.
Ukes For Youth
From its beginnings with 35 ukuleles loaned to one school, the program has grown to over 140 ukuleles being played by over 1,500 students. Ukes for Youth continues to develop programs to facilitate other opportunities for playing and instruction for youth as well as for music teachers, so that ukulele music is not just another school activity, but becomes an activity available both in and out of the school environment.
Ukulele University is deeply indebted to the generous donations for the Ukes for Youth program and to the many sponsors who have been so supportive, including two local ukulele distributors, Outdoor Ukes, and Snow Duke Ukes, (distributor of Kamoa Ukuleles), as well as to the Kanile’a Ukulele Company of Kaneohe, Hawaii. If you would like to make a donation to Ukes for Youth, you may do so by going to Tickets.