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.

View the UkeFest 2014 video

Tuition includes all workshops, classes, meals and the Uke Fest Concert on Saturday night. If you can’t make it to the camp, tickets are also available for the concert alone (more concert details 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.

2015 Instructors

joel eckhaus 2015 heidi swedberg 2015 marcy marxer 2015 ruthy ungar 2015 ben hassenger 2015 paul hemmings 2015 gerald ross 2015


Download our 2015 Uke Fest schedule (PDF).

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!



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 William Warnes, 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!


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

Full Payment is Due April 1
View the Uke Fest “What to Bring” info sheet – includes directions and other important info.

Refunds and Cancellation Policy:
To cancel, you can log into your account at RegOnline and select the “Cancel” option.
• Cancellations on or before April 22, we refund all but $35.
• Cancellations between April 23 – May 15, we refund all but $150.
• Sorry, no refunds after May 15


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

Joel Eckhaus

Visit Joel’s website

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.

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


Heidi Swedberg

Visit Heidi’s website

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

OWN IT! – Making a Song Your Own 

Whether you are singing, playing or doing both at once knowing your song is just the starting point.  Owning it is what makes a performance sparkle!  Heidi Swedberg shares tips and techniques to help you take as song you love and make it your own.

FEARLESS! – Getting Over Stage Fright the Fun Way

Have you experienced stage fright? Ever felt that you “get in your own way?”  Getting past that may be as easy as learning to trust yourself.  In this class, we will explore comedic improvisation forms like the ones you have seen on TV’s “Whose Line” and learn some simple techniques to help you feel at home on the stage.

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



Marcy Marxer

Visit Marcy’s website

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

Beyond Beginner

Break out of the Beginner level and leave it behind. This class will focus on chords, chords and more chords. We’ll use chord exercises and songs to build your chord repertoire and confidence.

The Beatles For Uke

Play a melody surrounded by chords so beautiful your friends will think “the Fab Four” refers to the four strings of the ukulele. The songs will be Michelle and Something.

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


Ruthy Ungar

Visit Ruthy’s website

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’s Workshop Descriptions

Under My Thumb: Early Rolling Stones Rockers

Does the swagger of Jagger translate to the uke? You bet! We will have fun with rock strumming and groovy chord progressions. Bring your inner rock star.

Romance In The Dark: Blues of Lil Green

Back by popular demand, Ruthy-Uke will take you to 1940’s Chicago and the great blues songs of Lillian “Lil” Green. We’ll decode some basic blues chord structures and let the rock-steady beat of your ukulele serve your sensual blues vocal stylings!

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


Ben Hassenger

Visit Ben’s website

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

The Fantastic Four — Play Your Favorite Songs with Four Chords

You’ve learned the basic three chords and want to take the next step to playing thousands more of your favorite folk and pop songs. Add one minor chord and you have the “Fantastic Four Chords,” used from the 1950s to modern times by doo-wop bands, The Beatles, Peter Paul & Mary, U2, Jason Mraz, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, and more. Various progressions using these chords in the keys of C and G will be covered, along with strum variations that make songs unique.​

Ukulele From Scratch 

This fun class starts at square one. No prior knowledge of music or stringed instruments is required. We will use familiar songs with easy-to-finger chords to get you started on the uke.  You will be playing songs in no time – guaranteed!

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



Paul Hemmings

Visit Paul’s website

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

The Music of Antonio-Carlos Jobim (Saturday)

In the mid-1960s, Brazilian composer Antonio-Carlos Jobim scored a worldwide hit with “The Girl From Ipanema” and it subsequently went on to become the second most recorded song in history (second only to Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday”).  In this workshop you’ll learn how to play the song on the ukulele and in the process you’ll learn a thing or two about arranging chord melodies of your own.

Triad Bootcamp (Saturday)

Triads, or three-note chords, are the building blocks of all chords on the ukulele, and expanding your understanding of them will set you free from having to rely on the same old open chords at your next jam session.  This workshop examines how these three-note wonders are constructed and will provide you with the ability to play major, minor, diminished, augmented, and suspended chords.

Diminished Returns (Sunday)

Take a quantum leap forward in your understanding of ukulele chords and say goodbye to your old chord book!  By unlocking the magic of the diminished seventh chord, one of the only chords on the ukulele that keeps the same shape and fingering for each of its four inversions, this workshop will teach you how to connect the dots between four inversions for practically any kind of seventh chord on the uke.

The Music of Miles Davis (Sunday)

The 1959 Miles Davis album “Kind Of Blue” is widely accepted as a masterpiece of modern Jazz.  By focusing on the tunes on this landmark album, you’ll learn how to incorporate some of the concepts and techniques used in its recording — including basic improvisation and arranging — into your everyday playing.

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


Gerald Ross

Visit Gerald’s website

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’s Workshop Descriptions

Life Beyond The Third Fret – Movable Chords Made Easy

One look at the number of chords typically found in a ukulele chord dictionary is enough to make anyone want to throw in the towel and quit. It looks like thousands! Do you really need to learn all those chords? The answer is a definite no! But if you don’t learn all the chords how will you play in all the keys? How will you quickly play an A flat chord, a C sharp minor or a B minor? And what if the singer decides to sing in the key of E flat?

Closed position chords to the rescue. These easily fingered “chord shapes” are the chameleon chords of the ukulele. One movable “chord shape” is twelve different chords. We will use simple songs to explore this concept. After the workshop you’ll ask yourself “why didn’t somebody show me this years ago? It’s so easy.”


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




Stay in the loop!

Like our Ashokan Music & Dance Camps Facebook page for news and updates.

and like our Uke Fest Facebook page for Uke Fest updates.



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.