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The Founders of DC’s Ukefest on Why Ukes Are Actually Cool

It's versatile, fun, and easy to learn—plus, you'll probably make friends in the process.

Photograph courtesy of Cathy Fink.

Some people are born to shred on guitar. Others rip through Paganini caprices on the violin. But for a growing number of string enthusiasts, ukulele is king. With the tenth installment of this annual celebration hitting North Bethesda, we talked to artistic directors Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer about how to get into uking.

Don’t sweat the dork factor

“For years, you’d pull it out and people would automatically start laughing,” says Marxer. “It was a surprise to people that you could actually play music on it. The reputation was that it wasn’t a great instrument, but people are often surprised by what the ukulele can do.”

Expect positive vibes

“There’s no snobbery, no exclusion,” says Fink. “People who have never played a uke before, if they come to a jam session of a class and they’re sitting with people who know more than they do, they don’t have to feel intimidated. People will give them pointers. It’s a noncompetitive scene.”

Careful—you might get hooked

“This is one of the world’s great social instruments,” says Fink. “It brings people together. All it takes is to see somebody play the ukulele with skill and hear how beautiful it sounds. Bingo! Then they get it.”

UkeFest will be at Strathmore from August 11–15; $425 for workshops, the culminating performance is free.

Rosa is a senior editor at Bitch Magazine. She’s written for Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazine.