Uke Fest

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 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!

Uke Fest Instructors for 2015

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
9am – 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, and breakfast on Monday. Special meal options available. Continuous beverages and late night snacks are also included.

Camp attendees under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. You may hold your registration with a $150 deposit until March 1st.

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 $100 plus the cost of your lodging (if any) 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

Joel Eckhaus

Joel Eckhaus

Joel’s Bio and Workshop Descriptions coming soon










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

Heidi Swedberg

Heidi Swedberg

When she was 5 years old Heidi Swedberg received her first ukulele from the Hawaiian Easter bunny while living in Kailua, HI. She has fond memories of teaching herself chords and writing songs in her room in Albuquerque NM, the place she thinks of as home. She picked the instrument up again in 1992 in Hollywood, CA while playing a singer-songwriter for a network TV pilot. Now life imitates art, and she plays a musician full 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, studio musician, performer, songwriter and producer with 30 years of experience and a shelf of impressive awards. She has played acoustic music on Emmy Award winning National Geographic specials, platinum shipping Eva Cassidy CD’s and on over 50 recordings and instructional materials created with her partner, Cathy Fink.

Marcy’s guitar playing spans a variety of styles- swing rhythm and lead, bluegrass, old time, celtic fingerpicking, folk fingerpicking and some of the most tasteful backup you can hear. The C.F. Martin Co. has honored Marcy with her very own signature model guitar, the MC3H which she helped design. Flatpick Guitar Magazine called Marcy “one of the country’s top Western style guitar players”. She also plays mandolin, bouzouki, hammered dulcimer, Latin percussion, banjos, pennywhistle and flutes and of course, the beloved ukulele.

After a recording session with Mike Seeger, Marcy fell in love with his 1918 Gibson cello banjo. She searched the world for one, recorded some youtube clips and was soon gaining a following for her amazing cello banjo music. The Gold Tone Banjo Company began making the Marcy Marxer model Cello Banjo and the instrument has since shown up in folk, celtic and even punk bands!

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 Swing Guitar and Ukulele for Guitar Players at There you can either download her amazing lessons, or join her online classroom for a more personal interaction and feedback. And she has many courses at Homespun Tapes for the guitar player, ukulele lover or harmony singer of all ages. Marcy has built a large following at top music camps such as Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Camp, Mars Hill, Woods Camp, etc.

Master of wordplay, Marcy’ s songwriting is yet another facet of her talents. Listen to “Swingtime Lullaby” where she creates 2 swing songs with different melodies over the same chord progression in the 1940′s style. Or hear the “Washboard Rhythm Song” on the “Banjo To Beatbox” project to be amazed at her internal rhyming.

In the fall of 2012, Marcy joined The Four Bitchin’ Babes for their season of touring. She holds her own in the comedy department and brings the electric guitar, mandolin, ukulele and pennywhistle to the show. No need to worry, she is willing to be twice as busy, touring with the Babes and continuing her prolific writing, recording, producing and touring relationship with Cathy Fink. Yes, she can do it all. One fun-lovin’ gal with talent in all 10 fingers and a heart of gold to accompany them!

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 into a signature sound that has been called “bold, beautiful, and full of promise.” He has released six albums on Leading Tone Records, including outings with his ukulele-fronted jazz trio, The Paul Hemmings Uketet, and critically acclaimed recordings with saxophonists John Tchicai and Eric Alexander. His proclivity for crossing musical boundaries led All About Jazz to write, “Hemmings’ mixture of cultures, influences, and genres, exploring the edges of harmony and rhythm, is remarkably fresh and a complete success.”
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. Along with Paul on ukulele, the album features Gaku Takanashi on bass and Rudy Royston on drums, in addition to special guests Greg Tardy on tenor saxophone and Curtis Fowlkes on trombone.
Paul is also 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 not only for his compelling performances but also for 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. The spot ran for two months during the Captain Kangaroo show. While his talent on kazoo may have kick-started his musical career, Gerald also played bass in a high school rock band and electric guitar with a Western swing band. He played acoustic guitar with a bluegrass band while in college, finally graduating to “The Lost World String Band” where he played guitar, bottleneck National guitar and Cajun accordion. The band 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 prepared, organized and thoughtful teacher, and 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.