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Travel BLOG
June 26, 2012

Uke-ing in Santa Cruz

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. Friday Night Bands on the Beach at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Fridays June 15 through August 31 at 6:30 and 8:30 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!


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  • NexusRadio 4 years 144 days ago
    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.
    I will be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information.
    Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

  • Running My First Wharf to Wharf | Santa Cruz County CVC 5 years 43 days ago
    [...] sprayed out of hoses. A huge variety of music performers, including Taiko drummers, rock bands and ukulele players, provided the soundtrack all along the six-mile journey. It’s a fact that the best little [...]

  • Christine@TheAums 6 years 71 days ago
    Thanks for the correction, Rhan, and the links for the newsletter!

  • Christine@TheAums 6 years 71 days ago
    Hi Carli,
    My husband, Aj, and I remember you from the Granary! We remember Jack too! Aj plays the ukulele so hopefully we'll see you at one of the fun gatherings soon!

  • Christine@TheAums 6 years 71 days ago
    I can't wait to check out "Ukeleles of Felton!" Besides my husband, there are many musicians in my family who would appreciate it.

  • simm klein 6 years 71 days ago
    Hi Carli: It was comforting to know that people still acknowledge listening to "records". I took a walk down to Capitola Village this past Sunday and was so delighted to hear/see the ukelele group. I did play the ukelele as a young teen. I am not sure my fingers still work but I was happily energized by the group & hope to go to the next meeting.
    Simm Klein

  • Rhan Wilson 6 years 72 days ago
    As co-leader and founder of Matthew, Mark, UKE, and John - I wish to thank Sue for this interview and to say that we meet ONCE a month in the park. To find out when, you can get on the Uke News, a newsletter I send out once or twice a week that lists everything ukulele in Santa Cruz. Go to: and from there you can sign up for the newsletter.
    Happy Ukin' everyone.
    Rhan Wilson

  • Leah 6 years 78 days ago
    I LOVE music, especially the FREE kind! Let me know if you get to any of these & we'll join you!

  • Carli Stevens 6 years 78 days ago
    Thank you for interviewing Sue and including Deb Parola's pictures. I have been playing for four years now and I love the singing as much as playing the uke. Most of our songs are the pop music from the 1920's onward, with Hawaiian songs as well. I was raised dancing and singing to the old 78's, and then came 45's and 33 1/3's, that's how old I am! We have lots of visitors who join in and sing or borrow rhythm instruments on Saturday mornings, a great gathering of friendship and welcoming to everyone. Join us! Carli Stevens

  • Maitreya Maziarz 6 years 82 days ago
    Gotta love those group names! "Sons of the Beach", "Matthew, Mark, Uke, and John", classic!!

  • Tiki King 6 years 83 days ago
    And just up the road in Felton is "Ukuleles Of Felton", one of the only stores on the west coast dedicated to the Ukulele, where you can see and play some of the finest Ukuleles from Local builders, Tony Graziano, Howard Rugg, Tiki King, and more.

  • Celia 6 years 83 days ago
    Can hardly wait to get up to Santa Cruz and attend one of the concerts.

  • Brandi 6 years 84 days ago
    This is really good! I never really thought about it, but I like the ukelele a lot. It has such a great sound that instantly makes me sway! I think my family will be able to get out to one of the performances at the end of the summer! Yay!

  • Lanae 6 years 84 days ago
    I love ukulele music! I especially love it when songs are redone or performed w/ the uke. SC has great live music in the summer. I am sure I will hit the Boardwalk at least once!!

  • Angel Tsunami 6 years 84 days ago
    This is AWESOME! I've been looking for more musical things to do in SC and this will fit the bill. It's also great to have found out about so many offerings in this one convenient space!

    Can't wait to head down to the park for the music, fun and maybe to make some new friends!