Uke Ohana's 5th Annual Workshop at the Ranch!

Uke Ohana's 5th Annual Workshop at the Ranch!

As seen in Ukelele Unlimted's Nov Edition

A Natural Approach

“People joke that it’s a food camp where we also play ukulele,” says Melany Berry, about her two annual ukulele events, Tunes in the Dunes and Uke Ohana Molokai. The latter is held at a picturesque, historic ranch in Hawaii, the former in a restored YMCA facility along a pristine, isolated stretch of the Oregon coast.

Playing and learning to play better are the points, and Berry, a ukulele player, caterer, and founder of Full Heart Productions, ensures that her guests get ample time to do both, thanks to a roster of teaching professionals filling the workshop schedule. But at Berry’s well-attended events, the twist is always on the natural side, food and otherwise.

In Oregon, attendees take a boat to get to the venue, then spend their days and nights pretty much “roughing it” at the old YMCA camp, bunking together and sharing a community bathroom. They’re also surrounded by nature’s finest offerings—scenic wooded inland trails, a sandy ocean beach.

Meals match the country setting, with the food sourced locally, from fish to organic vegetables. A sampling from last year’s menu included tuna with Berry’s “berryaki sauce,” carrot coriander soup, buttermilk biscuits with honey butter, and chocolate zucchini cake.

In Hawaii, Berry’s ukulele players stay at the Pu’u O Hoku (Hill of Stars) Ranch, tucked into 14,000 tropical acres on the eastern tip of the island. Much of the food served there is about as local as it gets: The ranch supplies the beef (and sometimes venison) and also the organic vegetables and fruit grown on the ocean-view property. In-between meals and workshops, attendees immerse themselves in Hawaii’s ukulele heritage, enjoying instruction, performances, and hula classes with Molokai recording artist and entertainer Lono.

Berry believes in the inspiration nature can evoke. “Experiences in nature, you leave with them in your heart, implement them in your lives,” she assures, and showers the same sentiment on the plucky instrument that makes these excursions happen. “The joy of ukulele is life transforming.”