In an Aug. 2012 article, Mitch Chang was described as a “rising star in the Los Angeles music scene…as a somewhat unlikely impresario who has brought world class musicians to a somewhat unlikely venue.” Mitch’s unique ability to orchestrate an event, his ability to find the best talent and his genuine desire to appeal to a broad audience makes his events so appealing to musicians of all ages and abilities. In addition to the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival on Sept. 22, Mitch also organizes and promotes the Southern California Slack Key Festival and the Los Angeles International Flamenco Festival.
Made for Uke: You have been the driving force behind the Los Angeles International Ukulele festival. What was your main reason for organizing the festival in 2015?
Mitch: I wanted to create an event that was as easy as possible for ukulele players of all ages and abilities to attend both in terms of price and in terms of class offerings so total beginners wouldn’t feel left out.
How do you explain the increasing popularity of the ukulele?
Social media really helps show everyone just how easy it is to get started playing with lots of wonderful teachers on youtube like The Ukulele Teacher, Cynthia Lin, and so many more. The ukulele offers a lighter sound and feel than guitar on certain tunes and of course, it’s very easy to carry along with you wherever you go
Why do you think attendance at the Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival continues to grow year after year?
The Los Angeles International Ukulele Festival consistently reaches out to kids and adults not already in the ukulele community. When they arrive, they discover there’s a plethora of clubs, groups and gatherings throughout Southern California that they could be a part of and it just keeps on growing the community from there.
What key benefits have attendees experienced at the festival?
Classes that cover complete beginner through advanced level players and the chance to see the top ukulele performers and teachers in the world in one spot, all day! Lots of new friendships are born out of the event with lots of group strum along activities.
What other countries are represented at the festival?
I know that some regularly travel from Japan and Europe for the annual festival! Last year we had members from an ukulele school in Peru come and participate.
In addition to organizing this festival, you also play the ukulele professionally. Have you always been interested in music? What instrument did you start playing? When did you pick up the ukulele?
The ukulele was my very first instrument I learned to play growing up in Hawaii, probably around the age of six at the Roy Sakuma school. From there I took piano lessons, played sax and drums in concert and marching band in junior high school/high school, and ended up majoring in classical guitar in college.
Do you think music should be taught to kids at a young age?
What are the challenges around learning a musical instrument (e.g. the ukulele) when you’re older.
Overthinking everything. Don’t be afraid to JUST DO IT and not try to analyze every little thing.
You are also passionate about teaching others to play the uke. What advice would you give someone who is an absolute beginner?
Listen to music, really listen. Rediscover songs you’ve heard 1,000 times and THINK you know inside/out. Approach playing with an open mind with no fear. Music can only be learned in the same manner as one learns a new language - with open ears.
How can anyone sign up for ukulele classes with you?
I teach community education classes for South Bay Adult School and Torrance Adult School, look for my classes there and sign up and get started!