There is nothing more inviting than good music, except maybe good FREE music. Throughout the year, and especially in the summer, Santa Cruz is home to a rich music scene that can be heard in coffee shops and restaurants, while strolling farmers markets and downtown, and naturally, on the beach.
Sue Graziano, local librarian and member of the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz talks about what it’s like to be a part of the live music scene in Santa Cruz.
Why the ukulele and how long have you been playing?
I’m married to a ukulele builder, so why not play? I’ve been playing quite regularly for ten years which is about how old the Ukulele Club is. For a long time, I thought, “I can’t do this,” but then I discovered: 4 strings and 5 fingers. You do the math. The other thing I discovered is it’s okay to play on your own, but when you play with other people and make music with other folks, it’s so fun! You also take risks and playing in a group makes you sound good.
What’s it like being a member of the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz?
The guys who started the Ukulele club thought it would just be a fun event, but it has become more and more popular over the years. All you have to do is show up and you’re a member. It’s a very non-exclusive club, but within it are lots of little mini groups that we get to see perform at open mike during our club meetings. Our members are mostly locals, but we have some who come from as far as Southern California and Marin. Also, once a year we have a camp out called Burning Uke. I like to say it’s like Burning Man only we keep our clothes on. It’s a weekend of playing music and having a really good time. Playing ukulele is so fun…it opens opportunities to meet people you might feel shy to introduce yourself to.
What makes Santa Cruz such a hot spot for ukulele playing?
Definitely the weather and people’s “inner garage band.” I know I’ve discovered my inner girl garage band since I started playing. Also, Santa Cruz is a place of people who are searching for a way to express themselves. It really is special to play and teach others.
I know your husband, Tony Graziano, makes custom ukuleles. Can you tell me a little about him?
He’s a great uke maker, and the nice thing about Tony is he’s open to talking about ukes and uke-making to anyone. And the only continents he hasn’t shipped his ukes to are Antartica and Africa.
Where can we enjoy free ukulele music this summer?
The Sons of the Beach meet outside of the Kind Grind every Saturday at 10 a.m. About a hundred crazies wake up, play, sing and have a blast. A slightly smaller group also gets together at the same spot on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. and at the Capitola Bandstand on Sundays at 10 a.m. There’s also “Matthew, Mark, UKE, and John” which is a morning of playing and singing old-time Gospel music at Frederick Street Park on Sundays at 10 a.m.
(FYI, Frederick Street Park has an extensive playground for the kids and an off-leash dog area for the other “kids.”)
Sue summed it up best when she said, “You can’t play the uke and not laugh and have a smile on your face.” Now if that doesn’t make you want to pick up a ukulele and start strumming, it should at least inspire you to head out and enjoy some music. Lucky for all, free music abounds in Santa Cruz every summer, at small and large venues alike. Some others to check out include:
Twilight Concerts in Capitola on Wednesdays June 20 through August 29 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Beach BBQ at the Crow’s Nest on Thursdays through August 30 5:30 p.m.
Music at Skypark in Scotts Valley on July 29th, August 26th, and Septmber 30th starting at 3:30 p.m.
So consider yourself invited to the party this summer in Santa Cruz!