Uke Fest 2016

Uke Fest at Ashokan 2016
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4th Annual Uke Fest 2016

This camp took place Friday, May 27-Monday, May 30, 2016

Register for the upcoming Uke Fest

WillsAllStarRevue from Stewart Dean on Vimeo.

Will’s All-Star Revue, 2016 UkeFest at Ashokan © Stewart Dean, 2016

Thank you to these event sponsors

Kala Brand Music Co.

Ukulele Magazine

Ukulele Magazine,
Stringletter Publishing

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MONO Creators

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D’Addario Strings

Daily Schedule 2016 | Instructors & Workshops 2016

Instructors & Workshops for 2016

Gerald Ross | Victoria Vox | Rachel Manke | Paul Hemmings | Ben Hassenger | Del Rey

Gerald Ross
Gerald Ross

Victoria Vox

Rachel Manke

Paul Hemmings

Ben Hassenger

Del Rey

Click on the instructors’ names or thumbnails to read more about them and view workshops offered. 

Gerald RossGerald Ross, Uke Fest Organizer and Instructor

Visit Gerald’s website

Gerald Ross is comfortable with just about every type of “roots” music there is, from western swing, bluegrass, Hawaiian, blues, jug band music, jazz standards, Tin Pan Alley, New Orleans rhythms to boogie-woogie, and he plays it all on guitar, lap steel, Dobro and ukulele.

He’s performed in concert with Bonnie Raitt, Arlo Guthrie, Doc Watson, Johnny Gimble, Riders In The Sky, Brownie McGhee and many others. Gerald won the Solo Artist Category of the 1993 WEMU Jazz Competition and has appeared many times on “A Prairie Home Companion.”

These days, Gerald is one of America’s best-known performers on, and advocates for, the ukulele and lap steel guitar; he’s released several CDs of ukulele music, published instructional materials, and is very much in demand as a camp instructor.

Gerald’s Workshops

You Don’t Need To Learn All Those Chords!
Level: Confident beginner to intermediate. Number of sessions offered: 2

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.”

rachel manke colorRachel Manke

Visit Rachel’s website

Rachel has been playing the uke since before Y2K hit, before it was cool. She says that she does not play “hipster ukulele”. However, the claim to be playing “before it was cool” might render that point moot. She started on a $25 Hilo soprano and first connected to the uke world via the founders of the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum. Rachel studied a bit with Joel Eckhaus (student of Roy Smeck) and wandered and dabbled here and there learning to play the darn thing.

She has a penchant for Tin Pan Alley, Old Time music and the fancy old-school uke chord solo flourish. She is a patient teacher whose biggest goal is to help people make good music, period. Favorite recent gigs include the Boston Ukulele Union Ukulele Melee, the Silver Creek International Ukulele Carnival and A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.

Rachel recently came out with her first album, “Other Duties As Assigned” which is available through Elderly Instruments, CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon.

Rachel’s Workshops

Hey! It’s About Ragtime
Level: Confident beginner to intermediate. Number of sessions: 2 – Progressive
It’s in the rhythm, it’s in the style, and we’ll sit and rag for a while. We’ll talk style and learn some good tunes.

Let’s Get Smecky
Level: Confident beginner to intermediate. Number of sessions: 1
Love that Roy Smeck? Me too. Let’s learn ya some style tricks from his bag. We’ll learn some flourishes and look at simple chord melody structure while trying our best to channel Roy.

Natural Finger Picking for Beginners
Level: Confident beginner to intermediate. Number of sessions: 1
Grab your uke and get your thinking cap. Leave your patterns at the doorstep. We’re going to break apart a song or two to learn how to pick out a song in a satisfying way.

Victoria Vox

Visit Victoria’s website

VictoriaVox_park_lgVictoria Vox (née Victoria Davitt) wrote her first song at 10 years old, inspired by the sounds coming out of the car radio on trips into town from the country home where she grew up in rural Wisconsin. Vox taught herself to sing and play guitar, privately in her bedroom after hopping off the bus from the school’s concert band practice, secretly saving herself from the reputation as a band-geek. At 17, Vox spent a year abroad in France, bought a guitar, and pursued to express herself through her songwriting.

Vox went on to study music— songwriting in particular— at the Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA) where she earned her degree in 2001. Shortly after stints in Nashville and London, Vox moved back in with her mom and began to tour across the US, singing at cafés and street-corners.

In 2003, Vox was given a ukulele and she fell in love with its limitations and simplicity. This lead to a more playful and melodic approach to her songwriting. As she continued to tour, ukulele-in-hand, the demand for a ukulele album grew. Vox recorded her debut uke album, “Victoria Vox and Her Jumping Flea”, in 2005 and toured Hawaii just before it’s official release in 2006. While in Hawaii, she landed an ‘ukulele sponsorship with KoAloha Ukuleles, which became the the tipping point to her becoming a household name at Ukulele Festivals around the world.

Vox is an award winning songwriter — including for songs she has written in French— (Independent Music Awards, 6-time WAMMIE winner, International Acoustic Music Awards, ADDYS, and has also donated songs to causes like the American Asbergers Association and the Duchenne Foundation. Her music has been used in indie films and featured on NPR’s “To the Best of Our Knowledge”.

Vox’s infectious pop-folk-jazz style has earned her fans who truly appreciate her art. She has fan-funded several albums and a songwriting project, where Vox hunkered down in 2012 to write a song a week for the year. The “52 Original Song Project” was preceded in 2011 with a YouTube “52 Cover Song Project” where she learned and memorized 52 cover songs.

In addition to her songwriting and ukulele playing, Vox has received praise for her “invisible” instrument: The Mouth Trumpet. She was invited to blow her own horn on the Jay Leno Show in 2009 and in 2015, Vox was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal as a leader in the mouth trumpet “revival” and performed live on air on KMOX’s Charlie Brennan show. She employs her mouth trumpet during musical breaks at her live shows and also includes it on her studio recordings, along with the real trumpet (which she also plays).

Vox now resides in Baltimore, MD and continues to tour to Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and across the US. Her 9th album, “When the Night Unravels” was released in January 2015.

Victoria’s Workshops

Ukulele 101
Level: Beginner. Number of sessions: 1
Just like it sounds. This workshop will start at square-one. If you’ve never played the ukulele or never played a musical instrument, this class is for you. We will learn basic chords and strums. I guarantee that you will be playing a song by the end of the class This workshop is held on Saturday during the first workshop slot of the weekend kick-starting your weekend of fun.

Introduction to Line Clichés
Level: Confident beginner to intermediate. Number of sessions: 1
A line cliché is a descending or ascending line that moves against a single stationary chord. Famous line cliché tunes include the James Bond theme song, “Michelle” (McCartney / Lennon), “Blue Skies” (Irving Berlin), “One” (Harry Nilsson), and Victoria’s own “Mon Coeur Vide”. We can alter the harmony of a song to incorporate the use of line clichés, in both major and minor keys. It’s a great way to embellish a chord (or simply understand those seemingly complicated chord progressions) and it’s not as hard as it sounds!

Level: All levels. Number of sessions: 2 – Progressive
There are many ticking parts in getting a song to work. Melodies, rhythms, chords, and lyrics… Which chords will work? What notes will work? In this interactive workshop we can look at a tune you have written, or are working on, and we’ll take a look at what works or… doesn’t! Learn about songwriting techniques to get you out of a rut, or to perhaps inspire new ideas. There is no right or wrong answer here.

Del Rey

Visit Del’s website

Del Rey is one of the greatest modern players of the metal-bodied resonator guitar.” Acoustic Guitar Magazine

“Whilst known for her amazing instrumental skills … it should not be overlooked that she always provides a very entertaining show, full of variety, drama and humour.”

“Del Rey is one of the most sublime modern guitarists. “ La Hora del Blues Barcelona

I started playing guitar when I was four. At the age of thirteen I was introduced to the world of traditional acoustic music, when a friend and I stumbled into a concert at Folk Arts Rare Records in San Diego. About 20 people were sitting on the floor under the record bins listening to a kid named Tom Waits play his original songs.

Lou Curtiss, proprietor of Folk Arts and artistic director of the San Diego Folk Festival suggested I quit wasting my time playing “Stairway to Heaven” and listen to some Memphis Minnie. He put me on stage with Sam Chatmon when I was fourteen, and introduced me to Lydia Mendoza and Howard Armstrong. Lou gave me recordings that still influence everything I do on solo acoustic guitar. I soaked up country blues, stride piano, classic jazz and hillbilly boogie. It was a musical education hanging around the record shop. Thirty years later, I became fascinated with the ukulele. I try to play the same kind of complicated rhythmic blues and ragtime on four strings as on six. I expect a lot out of the little instrument.

“Virtuosic in just the right way, which is to say, in order to realize a musical idea. A very nice unlikely blend of things, accessible, slightly nostalgic, but fresh and thoughtful. ” (CD Baby review, “At The Ukeshack #1)

I play solo concerts world wide and also present a concert/lecture on women musicians called Women In American Music. I also collaborate and tour frequently with guitarist Steve James, Suzy Thompson and Adam Franklin.
I’ve contributed to projects in honor of The Mississippi Sheiks, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Johnny Cash. I occasionally write about music for various publications, including Acoustic Guitar. All of my albums are available from Hobemian Records.

Del’s Workshops

Fingerpicking The Blues
Level: Intermediate and Above. Number of sessions: 2 – Progressive
(Please be able to keep a 4/4 beat with your thumb while picking a melody with your fingers.)
Many of the great 1920-30s guitar blues tunes sit beautifully on the ukulele. Repertoire from Memphis Minnie and Bo Carter, adapted to 4 strings, using characteristic chord inversions and some different song forms. Re-entrant tuning recommended.

Ukulele Blues Party
Level: Intermediate and Above. Number of sessions: 2 – Progressive
Jugband blues ensemble, with parts for strummers, pickers and singers. We’ll work on rhythm and playing together as a group. Tunes from the Memphis Jugband and Lil Millet.

Ben HassengerBen Hassenger

Visit Ben’s website

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 Workshops

Become One With the Strum
Level: Confident beginner. Number of sessions: 1
Learning to play a variety of strums makes your playing more interesting to you and your audience. We’ll explore folk, calypso, rock, polka, ska, and reggae strums along with the incredibly versatile “Benstrum” using some of your favorite songs.

The Fantastic Four Chords (could also be expanded into a Fantabulous Five and Super Six class)
Level: Beginner. Number of sessions: 1
What do songs like “Last Kiss”, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, “With or Without You”, and “Say Something” have in common? They all use the same four chords. Learn to play every song ever written (well, 80% of them, anyway) with these “Fantastic Four” chords and find out how to switch keys easily by using the Nashville Numbering System.

Uke the Beatles
Level: Confident beginner. Number of sessions: 1
Beatles songs sound great on the ukulele and we’ll play an array of Fab Four tunes from simple to sophisticated, using an assortment of strums and chords.

Alternate Tunings – Why Sound Like Everyone Else?
Level: Confident beginner to intermediate. Number of sessions: 1
Alternate tunings are great for stimulating your songwriting and making old songs sound new. We’ll explore easy-to-play and great-sounding tunings including slack-key and minor tunings.

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 Workshops

Chord Melodies For The Vocally-Challenged, Parts 1 & 2
Level: Intermediate and Above. Number of sessions: 2 – Progressive
While many people use the ukulele to accompany their vocals, some of us have not been blessed with the most sonorous of singing voices. Over the course of two days, this workshop will teach players how to simultaneously play chords and melodies on their ukuleles, enabling them to perform recognizable renditions of the songs they love without disturbing the neighbors. Repertoire will include traditional tunes such as Amazing Grace and You Are My Sunshine (Part 1) in addition to tunes by The Beatles and Duke Ellington (Part 2).

Playing The Changes, Parts 1 & 2
Level: Intermediate and Above. Number of sessions: 2 – Progressive
Some people seem to have a knack for playing solos that sound like they fit perfectly with the song’s chord changes. You can learn how. This 2-part workshop will delve into an approach to improvising that will have you “playing the changes” of your favorite tunes at your next jam session. Part 1: Using a simple two-chord song and the C-F-C-G chord progression, we’ll start laying the groundwork for a systematic approach to improvising that focuses on the use of chord tones. Part 2: Picking up where the previous class left off, we’ll add a few more chords and turn our attention to improvising over the common 12-bar blues form.

2016 Weekend Schedule

View the 2016 Daily Uke Fest schedule (PDF)


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