The L.A. International Ukulele Festival returns to the Torrance Cultural Arts Center next weekend. (Photo by Shane O’Donnell)

Celebrating the small four-stringed wonder – the ukulele – which has been captivating hearts and bringing musical joy into people’s lives for over 100 years, the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival, presented by Kala Koa Entertainment, returns this month for an exciting weekend dedicated to exploring the musical versatility of the instrument for the experienced ukulele player, the occasional strummer, or simply the curious spectator.

This unique, family-friendly festival includes workshops for all levels of playing ability to work on technique or simply learn to play, and live all-star performances by some of today’s most popular ukulele players (included in admission).

The Los Angeles International festival on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. featuring unlimited access to workshops, Ukulele Festival takes place Sept. 23-25 at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center; 3330 Civic Center Dr. in Torrance, kicking off with a concert on Friday night at 6 p.m., followed by the all-day live performances, classes and presentations for beginners of all ages; and on Ohana Sunday at 2 p.m., a concert and play-along for the whole family.

The festival also hosts an Ukulele Marketplace, free and open to the public, located in the entry plaza of the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. Attendees can browse boutique ukulele builders, entry-level and budget-friendly instruments, fun accessories and ukuleles handcrafted in Hawaii, as well as open-mic performances. In addition, authentic island-style shave ice and other Hawaiian food will be available for purchase.

Ukulele artists and workshop Instructors include Bakithi Kumalo, Bernadette Plazola, Abe Lagrimas, Jr., Brittni Paiva, Andrew Molina, Victoria Vox, Alissa Hunicutt, Neal Chin, John Atkins, Marlowe, Lise Lee, and Mitch Chang.

Festival sponsors include Mitch Chang Mortgage, Ohana Ukuleles, Kala Ukuleles, Anytime Hawaiian, Hawaiian Island Creations, Tyde Music, and Manea Ukuleles.

All-access entry, which includes unlimited access to workshops and performances: $47 general; $20 for students with ID at the door; free for kids 12 and under;

Ohana Family Theatre (Nakano Theatre): $20 general, free for kids 12 and under. Beginner classes all day, including kids’ activities, a children’s ukulele puppet show and demonstrations (access to performances not included). A limited number of loaner ukuleles will be available courtesy of Ohana Ukuleles.

For the first time, this year’s festival features additional ukulele events to round out the weekend:

– Friday Evening Festival Kick-Off Concert, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m., features Andrew Molina and Brittni Paiva, two of the hottest ukulele talents; George Nakano Theater, 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance. $35.

Paiva, a multi-award-winning instrumentalist known for what she can do on the ukulele, has performed on stage with Carlos Santana when he appeared in Hawaii and has also joined famed guitarist Tommy Emmanuel on stage at the California Worldfest. She is a three-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award (Hawaii’s version of the Grammys) winner with numerous other awards and nominations throughout the years, including Most Promising Artist of the Year in 2005 for her debut release, “Brittni x 3.”

Molina’s electrifying performances have captivated audiences across the country and around the world, appearing in China, Europe, Tahiti and, of course, the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival. Audiences will enjoy Molina’s unique solo ukulele arrangements of hits like Aerosmith’s Dream On” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses alongside his own original instrumental compositions. Each of his albums earbed a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award nomination for Ukulele Album of the Year.

– Ohana Sunday afternoon of family ukulele fun, Sept. 25 at 2 p.m., features performances from Lise Lee, Bernadette Plazola and Alissa Hunicutt, plus time to jam on the stage with friends, family, and other ukulele enthusiasts. The Grand Annex; 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro; $5 youth, $23 adult, $140 VIP table.

For more information:

(800) 595-4849

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