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Ukulele players have strings, will travel

Musicians tune up and turn heads as they take over a coffee shop's patio.

September 24, 2013|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com
  • Beachcombers Kate's Ukes member Alissa Hunnicutt of Burbank plays along to songs at Java Brew Coffee House, 2418 Honolulu Ave., in Montrose on Saturday, September 21, 2013.
Beachcombers Kate's Ukes member Alissa Hunnicutt… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

When a group of ukulele players got together recently for a jam session, Burbank resident Alissa Hunnicutt was among them, gaining experience performing in public.

She only began learning the instrument about two years ago when she started watching YouTube videos. After she began taking lessons with a Burbank instructor, she made it her goal to perform for others. 

“That's my goal,” she said, “To get a little half-hour set and sing.”

On Saturday, she brought her custom ukulele, which features a painted design of a moon and stars created by an Australian artist, to a Montrose coffee shop where more than a dozen others played together.

On the third Saturday of every month, Tujunga resident Kate Friedricks leads a group of ukulele players who drive from near and far to play together, regardless of their skill level or however long they've been playing. Last weekend, they played at the Java Brew Coffee House in Montrose.

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For Friedricks, who grew up in Glendale and taught herself how to play the ukulele as a girl, the instrument has become an addictive mode of expression that keeps her up at night playing song after song.

All it takes, she said, is a quality ukulele and the Internet for her to put off sleep.

“You get a good ukulele and you go online, and you just keep downloading all these wonderful songs, and it's midnight and you say, ‘I really should have gone to bed an hour ago,” she said. “But just one more.'”

The informal jam sessions began in June after La Crescenta resident Bambi Leigh Hale scouted for a place to play on Honolulu Avenue. She secured permission with Java Brew Coffee House — located a couple blocks from big-name coffee shops such as Starbucks and the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf — and now the players take over the patio and stop passersby in their tracks.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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