Uke Fest

Uke Fest photos by Stewart Dean View more on Flickr

Friday, May 22 – Monday, May 25, 2015

Announcing our third annual family-friendly weekend retreat for ukulele players of all skill levels! Workshops, concerts, dancing, jam sessions and lots of fun.

Tuition includes all workshops, classes, meals and the Uke Fest Concert on Saturday night. If you are just coming for the concert, you can purchase your ticket here.

Bring the family and enjoy a weekend of music and friends in a gorgeous natural setting. The surrounding area is rich in history – perfect for a learning vacation. Children are welcome to attend with a parent or guardian.


Register Now!

2015 Instructors

joeleckhaus2015 heidiswedberg2015 marcymarxer2015 ru-md benhassenger2015 paulhemmings2015 gr2-md
Joel Eckhaus Heidi Swedberg Marcy Marxer Ruthy Ungar Ben Hassenger Paul Hemmings Gerald Ross

Tentative Schedule

Friday, May 22
3-6pm - Registration
6pm – Dinner
7pm – Orientation
8-10:30pm – Dance to live music with Jay Ungar, Molly Mason & Instructors. Ruthy Ungar caller.

Saturday, May 23
Workshops during the day
8-10:30pm – Instructor concert

Sunday, May 24
Workshops during the day
8-10:30pm – Camper Cabaret (open mic – on stage)

Monday, May 25
9:00am – Farewell brunch

and, of course, impromptu jamming at any time!

While our full 2015 schedule is in production, you can view or download the 2014 Ashokan Uke Fest Schedule (PDF) for examples of the types of classes available.



Tuition includes all classes, meals and the concert. If you are not coming to the full camp, you can purchase tickets for the concert only here.

You’ll enjoy delicious meals by our Chef Jill Freiberg, including dinner on Friday, three meals on Saturday and Sunday, brunch on Monday, beverages round the clock and sumptuous late night snacks. Special meal plans are available for those who require vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free meals.

Camp attendees under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. A $150 deposit will hold your spot until April 1st when full payment is due.

Tuition does not include lodging, but on-site lodging can be added during registration.


Register Now!


EARLY BIRD PRICES are good through Dec. 1, 2014. 

Adults $435 / Early Bird $420
Youth (ages 13-25): $355 / Early Bird $340
Children (ages 5-12) $310 / Early Bird $295
Parent/Guardian (Meals, dance and concert, no classes) $295
Under 5 Free



As part of the registration process, you may choose onsite lodging at the beautiful new Ashokan Center campus. More information and costs here.


Work Exchange

Work exchange positions are available – see the list of a available positions and tuition discounts here.

On the registration form, you’ll be asked for your top three choices, and will be required to make a deposit of $150 when your register. We will email you with the balance to be paid once we award the positions. No need to call us.

If you don’t get a position, you’re entitled to a full refund if requested right away.


Instructors and Workshops

While our instructors plan their courses for this year, take a look at 2014′s workshops for an idea of what’s offered.

Joel Eckhaus

Joel Eckhaus

Maine’s “Ukulele Eck” has been “out there” for four decades or so…singing and playing the ukulele, mandolin, tenor guitar, banjo, and musical saw in string bands, swing bands, vaudeville shows, and weird gigs of all sorts. A founding member of the Arm & Hammer String Band, the Neverly Brothers, the Blue Sky Serenaders, the Pinetones, Al Dente’s Inferno, and the Fabulous Lacklusters, Joel can’t seem to stay away from a stage and a microphone for very long. He studied the uke and tenor banjo with Roy Smeck, Vaudeville’s Wizard of the Strings, and now teaches at uke festivals and workshops around the country. He currently performs Brazilian choro on cavaquinho, in Choro Louco, and with the Uke-abilly duo, Dos Eckies.

He has recorded one CD “Tarnished ReputationUkulele Eck and the Fabulous Lacklusters, on Goodenuff Records. When not performing, he’s most likely to be found covered in sawdust, building the tools of his trade, ukes, mandolins, tenor guitars as proprietor of Earnest Uncommon Musical Instruments. His instruments are played and collected worldwide, and beyond!


Joel’s Workshop Descriptions 

Chord Melody a la Smeck

Roy Smeck (Vaudeville’s Wizard of the Strings) played guitar, banjo, steel guitar and ukulele from the 1920’s through the 1990’s! He always ended his act with the uke, because it got the most applause. Roy would take popular songs of the day and create spectacular chord/melody solos, combining dazzling right hand techniques, great chord voicings, and a healthy dose of good ol’ fashioned showmanship.

Level 1/2

This workshop will explore some of those techniques using chord/melody arrangements learned from the man himself. It will include a few old popular songs, first using basic first position chords, and then moving them up the neck to allow the melody notes to shine. Several right hand techniques will be covered to help create a variety of rhythms. No written music or tablature is used, just basic chord symbols and charts. The workshop is open to advanced beginners (if you know a few songs and basic major, minor and 7th chords) and beyond.

Level 3/4

Roy composed a number of beautiful tunes that have become “classics” in the ukulele repertoire. We will listen to and learn several of these as well as a few of the more challenging chord melody arrangements of popular songs that he developed over his seven-decade career. More right hand techniques. and several of Roy’s tricks of the trade will be included. Open to intermediate players, knowledge of first position and some higher inversions of major, minor and 7th chords helpful.

Visit Joel’s website


 back to top | Joel Eckhaus | Heidi Swedberg | Marcy Marxer | Ruthy Ungar | Ben Hassenger | Paul Hemmings | Gerald Ross

Heidi Swedberg

Heidi Swedberg

Heidi Swedberg has been messing around with a ukulele since she was 5.  Born in Hawaii, she received her first instrument from the Easter Bunny.  In her 20 years as an actress in the TV/Film industry she’s had occasion to play uke, baritone and tenor guitar.  She taught the cast of SEINFELD to play “Happy Birthday” when she worked with them playing Susan, George’s ill-fated fiancée.  Heidi enjoys teaching all ages from pre-school to post secondary, and is big on involvement and empowerment.  She and her partner Daniel Ward perform for families as Sukey Jump Band and for sophisticated adults as The Smoking Jackets.  They have enjoyed participating in ukulele events from Mexico to China, and Heidi is thrilled to be visiting Ashokan for the first time.



Heidi’s Workshop Descriptions coming soon…

Visit Heidi’s website




 back to top | Joel Eckhaus | Heidi Swedberg | Marcy Marxer | Ruthy Ungar | Ben Hassenger | Paul Hemmings | Gerald Ross

Marcy Marxer

Marcy Marxer

Marcy is a multi-instrumentalist, teacher, studio musician, performer, songwriter and producer with 30 years of experience and a shelf of impressive awards. She is heard on albums by Mike Seeger, Eva Cassidy, Emmy Award winning National Geographic specials and more than 50 recordings and instructional materials created with her partner, Cathy Fink.

The fun-loving Marcy is all about connecting music and people. She teaches locally when she is not on tour. She has also created a super-fun international online network for lovers of the mighty ukulele, Ukulele Social Club. She also teaches Ukulele for Guitar Players at where you can either download her amazing lessons, or join her online classroom for a more personal interaction and feedback. And she has many instructional courses available on Homespun Tapes for ukulele lovers, guitar players and harmony singers of all ages. Marcy has built a large following as an inspiring and effective teacher at top music camps such as the Swannanoa Gathering, Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Camp, Mars Hill, Woods Camp and others.

Marcy’s Workshop Descriptions coming soon…

Visit Marcy’s website

 back to top | Joel Eckhaus | Heidi Swedberg | Marcy Marxer | Ruthy Ungar | Ben Hassenger | Paul Hemmings | Gerald Ross

Ruthy Ungar

Ruthy was born to esteemed musical parents who had seemingly mastered every stringed instrument in the world . . . except the uke! It was for that reason that she was drawn to the diminutive and unintimidating instrument at an early age. In her youth, playing the ukulele was more of a pastime than a career focus, but the beginning of her professional music journey in 1998 was sparked by none other than her old 4-stringed pal. Having just hit NYC as an aspiring actress, Ruthy was playing the role of Roberta in an off-off-broadway staging of John Patrick Shanley’s “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.” She also worked a day-job as a personal assistant which found her doing lots of city walking. To the tempo of one of these walks, her incessant mental acting homework became a memorable and melodic song (her most well known composition to date, “Four Blue Walls.”) Knowing that this tune needed a plunkier, old-timey accompaniment, she immediately ordered a banjo-uke off the internet, performed the song that week at the SideWalk Cafe’s popular “Anti-Hoot” and hit the ground running.

She has spent many years recording and touring with The Mammals, Sometymes Why, and husband-wife duo Mike + Ruthy, and has always found a special way of weaving her ukulele into any blues, ballads, standards or fresh originals that come her way. The most massive response Ruthy ever got for a uke number was for an unexpected cover of the Hall and Oates tune “Maneater” at a ukulele review show in Northampton a few years ago. This has inspired her to explore a litany of 80′s covers – although she hopes to eventually delve deeply into all of the decades of the last century. Ruthy mainly tours with a National Resophonic uke and her old Glee Club banjo-uke, but also enjoys playing baritone and a lovely Martin soprano when she’s at home.

Ruthy Ungar’s Workshop Descriptions coming soon…

Visit Ruthy Ungar’s website


 back to top | Joel Eckhaus | Heidi Swedberg | Marcy Marxer | Ruthy Ungar | Ben Hassenger | Paul Hemmings | Gerald Ross

Ben Hassenger

Ben Hassenger

Ben works as a music facilitator with Special Education children and teaches ukulele and guitar to students and teachers in the Lansing MI Public School District. He plays guitar and ukulele in the bands Blue Jello and The Ukulele Kings and is the co-founder of the Lansing Area Ukulele Group (L.A.U.G.H.) and the organizer of the Mighty Uke Day Festival in Old Town Lansing and Intelochen’s Uketoberfest. He is also a prolific songwriter, with two songs about the Detroit Tigers enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.


Ben’s Workshop Descriptions coming soon…

Visit Ben’s website





 back to top | Joel Eckhaus | Heidi Swedberg | Marcy Marxer | Ruthy Ungar | Ben Hassenger | Paul Hemmings | Gerald Ross

Paul Hemmings

Paul Hemmings

Viewing music through a wide-angle lens, Paul Hemmings utilizes the unassuming ukulele to fuse together elements of modern jazz, free improvisation, and American roots music. Based in New York City, Paul performs regularly as leader of The Paul Hemmings Uketet, the dynamic ukulele-bass-drum team he uses to interpret his own original compositions and renditions of modern standards. The group’s latest album, “The Blues And The Abstract Uke,” is a collection of aural snapshots that focus on the breadth of American blues music through the unique filter of the jazz ukulele trio.

Paul is a familiar face on the burgeoning ukulele festival circuit. With appearances at the Cairns Ukulele Festival in Australia, the New York Ukulele Festival, the Centrum Ukulele Festival in Port Townsend, WA, and many others, Paul has garnered a reputation for his compelling performances and his accessible workshops. By presenting technically in-depth material in an approachable manner, he has cemented a reputation as the “mad professor” of ukulele instruction. Paul is currently toiling away on a series of books and video tutorials for ukulele players of all stripes.

Playing the part of music educator is a role that Paul has been enjoying for well over a decade. Since 2001, he has been teaching students of all ages at the Third Street Music School Settlement in New York City, the nation’s oldest community music school. He has also held adjunct positions at Marymount Manhattan College, the National Guitar Workshop, the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, and the California Coast Music Camp, among others. Paul also holds a degree from the acclaimed Jazz Performance program at the New School University in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

Paul’s Workshop Descriptions coming soon…

Visit Paul’s website


 back to top | Joel Eckhaus | Heidi Swedberg | Marcy Marxer | Ruthy Ungar | Ben Hassenger | Paul Hemmings | Gerald Ross

Gerald Ross

Gerald Ross

Gerald Ross’ earliest claim to fame is a commercial he made with a friend for Detroit’s Kazoozie Kazoos that ran during the Captain Kangaroo show. While his talent on kazoo may have kick-started his musical career, Gerald has also played bass, electric, acoustic and bottleneck guitar, and Cajun accordion in rock, swing and Bluegrass bands including “The Lost World String Band” which made several appearances on “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Today, Gerald is known more for his work with the ukulele and Hawaiian lap steel. He has recorded six solo CDs, available wherever fine music is sold. In addition to being a polished performer, Gerald is a clear and experienced teacher, has a great sense of humor and is such a nice guy! Whew!

He has performed with Bonnie Raitt, Arlo Guthrie, Doc Watson, Johnny Gimble and many others. He’s been featured at the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain (headliner), The Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, Wine Country Uke Fest, Lone Star Uke Fest, Portland Ukefest, Sevilla (Spain) Uke Fest, Augusta Heritage Swing Week, Ashokan Western Swing Week and many other Roots music festivals. It’s no wonder Gerald Ross has been called an entire music camp and festival in one.

Gerald Ross’ Workshop Descriptions coming soon…

Visit Gerald’s website


 back to top | Joel Eckhaus | Heidi Swedberg | Marcy Marxer | Ruthy Ungar | Ben Hassenger | Paul Hemmings | Gerald Ross


Photos on the top of this page were taken by George Touchstone and Stewart Dean.

You can see more 2014 Uke Fest photos on the Photos page.

…and here’s a fun “promo” video put together by 2014 Uke Fest instructor Jim D’Ville.