By Tyler BIDDLE
Starbucks and Coffee Bean may be among the most popular weekend destinations on Honolulu Avenue, but the Java Brew Coffee House on the same street has a secret weapon.
On a recent Saturday (and the third Saturday of every month) a group of musicians meet up to jam on their ukuleles on the Java Brew patio and people from all over L.A. show up to hone their skills. Residents of Pasadena, Glendale, and Burbank are all common at the sessions as well as kids who have just started to play and adults who have played for decades.
The group is led by Kate “Beachcomber” Friedricks, a veteran musician who grew up in Glendale. She began playing when she was just 9 years old by teaching herself the guitar. Now she teaches several different instruments at the Griffith Park Adult Community Center and at the McGroarty Arts Center in Tujunga. She also has online ukulele classes via Skype that people all over the world have been able to enjoy including La Crescenta regular Karen Quest from Giddy Up Productions. Quest showed off her rope trick skills at the Montrose centennial celebration on Honolulu and is the 2001 Women’s Big Loop Champion.
Whether it’s Skyping, playing in a professional class or just jamming at Java Brew, Friedricks makes a point of teaching newcomers just how fun and easy the ukulele can be. The instrument is very popular amongst travelling musicians due to its small portable size and incredible versatility. Many of the players in Friedricks’ group are self-taught, using Internet videos for guidance. Events like those at Java Brew present the opportunity to meet other players in person while learning and sharing their craft together. The group has also been working to form a group of players for the upcoming Montrose Christmas Parade.
The events are organized in large part due to La Crescenta resident Bambi Leigh Hale, who began as a student of Friedricks’ last summer. Hale secured the location at the Java Brew Coffee House at 2418 Honolulu Ave. back in June and ever since the group has been turning heads and filling the avenue with music. They set up right on the coffee house patio under the shade, sharing music and practicing together. In fact, anyone is welcome to bring their own tunes for the group to play, provided they have sheet music for everyone.
Those wishing to get involved can search for Beachcomber Kate’s Ukes Jam on Meetup.com and the Kate’s Ukes Facebook page where info for upcoming sessions is posted. Meeting times are fluid but the day is always the third Saturday of the month. It’s free and all are welcome regardless of age or experience. Those who show up can decide to jam with the group, get some help with techniques, or just relax and enjoy the tunes.