Uke Fest 2017

Best of Uke Fest at Ashokan 2017
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5th Annual Uke Fest 2017
This camp took place May 26-29, 2017

Register for the upcoming Uke Fest


© Stewart Dean, 2017

View the official 2017 Uke Fest Schedule (PDF)

Campers meet instructors on the first day of camp and ask questions about the workshops, then make class selections.

Thank you to these event sponsors

Kala Brand Music Co.

Ukulele Magazine

Ukulele Magazine,
Stringletter Publishing

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D’Addario Strings

Instructors & Workshops for 2017… an unbelievable group of ukulele greats!

Gerald 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

Three note chords –  All you need to get that bluesy/jazzy sound.
(Confident beginner to intermediate)
Just because the ukulele has four strings doesn’t mean you have to play them all! Many times, you can say more musically with two or three notes than you can with four. We will learn how easy it is to finger three-note chords that sound much more bluesy and jazzy than their four-note counterparts.  Simple Blues songs will be used to demonstrate this very effective, very hip-sounding style.  No music theory needed, no music reading required, no knuckle-busting chord shapes to learn… just fun! Any sized uke tuned GCEA will work. Please contact Gerald with any questions at:


James Hill & Anne Janelle

Visit James and Anne’s website

It’s true: opposites attract. James Hill, “possibly the best ukulele player in the world” (Waikato Times), grew up playing folk, jazz and blues on his ukulele. Anne Janelle, “a cellist of true beauty” (Ottawa Citizen), played only classical music on her cello. But the pair’s differences became their greatest asset: the uke is high, the cello is low; the uke plays short notes, the cello long bow strokes; the uke is all about strumming while the cello radiates melody.

In 2009, James and Anne released True Love Don’t Weep, an album of duets that garnered a Canadian Folk Music Award for Traditional Album of the Year. A mixture of traditional tunes with “fresh vitality” (Country Music People) and original songs, True Love Don’t Weep showcased the duo’s ability “to capture the soul of a song” (Folk World).

Since True Love Don’t Weep, James and Anne have released two solo albums each (James’ Man with a Love Song and The Old Silo; Anne’s Beauty Remains and So Long at the Fair) and toured in over 15 countries, making their mark not only as accomplished instrumentalists but also as some of the finest songwriters of their generation. Together, they conjure a sound that is intricate, enchanting and engaging: “a crystal clear sound filled with warmth” (Bob Mersereau, CBC Radio). In concert, James is “a dazzling live performer with a genial, low-key sense of humour” (Edmonton Journal) and Anne brings her “gorgeous syrupy voice” (Acoustic Magazine) to songs that are “inventive, entertaining, beautifully written and brilliantly performed” (R2 Magazine).

In short, a night out with James Hill & Anne Janelle is “the perfect evening of tunes, stories and musical virtuosity” (Wellington Dominion-Post).

James’ Workshops

Swing, Ukulele Swing!
It’s swing time in Ukulele Land! East coast, west coast, all around the town, swing is happening. Sweet-sounding swing chords are easy to play and they sound oh-so fabulous. Your ukulele will thank you and your strumming will never be the same again. Regardless of prior experience, James will have you swinging your first Jazz tune in five minutes and you’ll fly to the moon from there!

Lyricism and Line: How to Make the Ukulele Sing
Explore the lyrical side of the ukulele.  In this workshop students learn to play chord-melody arrangements of beautiful melodies such as Spring Song (Mendelsohnn), Slumber Song (Schubert) and Streets of Laredo (Trad.).  Discover subtleties of left-hand fingering and right-hand fingerpicking and how these can make (or break) the lyrical qualities of the music.  A workshop full of musical delights and ukulele insights.

(Beginner / Intermediate)
Based on James’ book of the same name, BOOSTER UKE takes you from “ho-hum” to “big fun” in a relaxed, stress-free way!  The secret: Chord Twins, a simple technique that will change the way you play.  Even if you bought the book and have taken the BOOSTER UKE online lessons you don’t want to miss this workshop as James will teach great songs that aren’t included in the book!

Living in Perfect Harmony
(All Levels)
If you love to SING in three-part harmony, this is the class for you! Find out why your ukulele is the perfect tool for writing beautiful vocal arrangements in just minutes. We’ll sing arrangements of folk, gospel and jazz favourites. Best of all, you’ll learn how to create your own multi-part harmonies faster than you can say “My Mom Made Me Mow My Lawn!”

Anne’s Workshops

Cover It Well
(All levels)
Don’t just cover it… cover it well!  Learn how to create covers that are innovative, inventive and unexpected. Don’t just cover your favourite song, make it magical.

(All levels)
Music making is absolutely dependent on a healthy body.  Take a little breather from playing uke and find out how to stretch and strengthen your music-making muscles.  This is a gentle class and no stretching or movement experience is required.  Requests taken!


Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer

Visit Cathy & Marcy’s website

Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer are a formidable powerhouse of sound, with a repertoire of traditional and contemporary folk, old-time country and swing music. Their superb harmonies are backed by instrumental virtuosity on the acoustic & electric guitar, five-string banjo, mandolin, cello banjo, ukulele, percussion and many other instruments. They are ready to engage and entertain audiences of all ages, with a broad following in family music and in American Roots styles. Equally at home at a Bluegrass festival, Folk festival, Family concert or just about anywhere, audiences respond to their good humor, excellent musicianship and warm rapport. Their love of passing the music on has led them to direct several music camps and workshops, including the Ukulele & Guitar Summit at the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, MD.

They’ve earned two GRAMMY® Awards for “cELLAbration: a Tribute to Ella Jenkins” and for “Bon Appétit!”. An additional 11 GRAMMY® nominations include their CDs, “Postcards” and “Banjo Talkin’ in the Best Traditional Folk Album category. They produced and performed on Tom Paxton’s GRAMMY® nominated “Live in the UK” CD and tour. Tom says, “Cathy & Marcy are at home in a dozen musical styles. They swing you, jazz you, and old timey you till you just give up and bliss out”.

The C. F. Martin Company honored Cathy & Marcy’s musical achievements by creating a signature guitar for each of them, the M3H Cathy Fink Custom Signature Edition and the MC3H Marcy Marxer Custom Signature Edition. Marcy’s instrumental virtuosity has led to endorsements with Gold Tone Instruments (Marcy Marxer Model Cello Banjo), Kala Instruments (Marcy Marxer Model Tenor Ukulele), National Steel Guitars (prototype of frst Tenor Steel Guitar made since 1932) and Latin Percussion (full set of Congas and Latin Percussion instruments).

Their recorded catalogue of CD’s, DVD’s and instructional materials includes an astounding 65 titles. Recognized as top-notch songwriters, they are multiple prizewinners in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, USA International Songwriting Contest and Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest. In their 30+ years performing together, the Washington Area Music Association has recognized Cathy & Marcy with over 60 WAMMIE Awards for folk, bluegrass and children’s music.

What do The Savoy Family Cajun Band, Pete Seeger, Riders in the Sky, Si Kahn, Brave Combo, Mariachi Los Camperos, Mike Seeger, Patsy Montana, Tim O’Brien, Hot Rize and Ysaye Barnwell all have in common? They have all worked with Cathy & Marcy in the studio. Their skills have led to producing over 60 recordings by and with other artists, and to projects with National Geographic, AT&T, McGraw-Hill School Publishing, Handwriting Without Tears and numerous corporate clients who appreciate roots music values.

Cathy & Marcy have performed at hundreds of bluegrass and folk festivals, appeared on the “Weekend Today Show”, “CBS Early Show”, National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered”. The duo has toured worldwide from Japan to New Zealand, Vancouver to New York and everywhere in between. American Voices Abroad chose Cathy & Marcy to perform in China, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu for the U.S. Department of State.

Marcy’s Workshops

Chord Confidence
(All levels)
This workshop will focus on changing chords fluently and efficiently. 

Closed Chord Confidence
This workshop focus on changing closed position chords with confidence and speed. Chord sheets and blank chord sheets will be provided. Some of the chords covered will be suggestions from the class.

Chorded Melody 1
This workshop guides players through a step by step method of playing chorded melody versions of familiar songs. Players will be able to apply this method to songs of their choice. Chorded Melody is a two session class. Players should be able to play a Barre Chord.

Cathy’s Workshops

Intro to Clawhammer – 2 day
(Intermediate & Up)
The clawhammer technique is an old time banjo technique that when transferred on Ukulele, utilizes the high G as a drone string. It involved knocking down on the strings with the right hand instead of strumming or picking. It can be used for song accompaniment or playing instrumentals. On day one we will focus primarily on the right hand. On day two we continue right hand drills and incorporate some left hand chords and melody.

Big Fat Eclectic Songbook – 2 day
(Advanced Beginner-Intermediate)
Sing and play a big repertoire in various styles. While we’re at it, we’ll learn a few new chords and right hand techniques. We will work on 5-6 songs per day. Songs like: Freight Train, the Last Thing on MY Mind, If I Only Had A Brain, Fly Me To The Moon, Route 66, Little Grass Shack. Under the Chicken Tree and more.

Jim D’Ville

Visit Jim’s website

Jim D’Ville is a music educator and facilitator who is on a mission to get ukulele players off the paper and playing music by ear. Over the last six years he has taught his Play Ukulele By Ear workshops to thousands of players in the United States, Australia, Canada and the Caribbean.

Jim is the author of the Play Ukulele By Ear DVD series and hosts the popular Play Ukulele By Ear website.

Jim’s Workshops

Play Ukulele By Ear Vol. 1: Learning To Listen
(All Levels)
Get the most out of your ukulele experience by getting rid of that songbook and learning to Play Ukulele By Ear. This entertaining and informative workshop will give you the tools you need to tap into your innate musical abilities. Playing by ear is easy, fun, and it will propel your understanding of how music works to a new level. Learning the emotional value of just three major chords will open open your ears to the structure of millions of songs, in under an hour! This workshop will make you a better listener and student! All skill levels welcome, however, knowledge of basic chord shapes (C F G7) is helpful. “Jim’s Play Ukulele By Ear workshop is a high-energy roller coaster of learning and laughs. He’s one-of-a-kind. Buckle up!” James Hill

Play Ukulele By Ear Vol. 2: Chord Progressions & The Circle of 5ths
(Advanced Beginner and up)
Being able to hear and identify chord progressions will go a long way toward demystifying the basic structure of music. Before you know it you’ll be hearing and recognizing dominant seven and diatonic chord progressions. This exciting workshop will open your ears to the way all songs work around the Circle of 5ths. Knowledge of chords C F G7 A7 D7 E7 Am Dm Em is helpful.

NEW! Fab Beatles Songs 1963-’64
(Advanced Beginner/Intermediate)
Why were The Beatles the greatest band ever? The chord progressions! The Beatles songs written in the breakout years of 1963 and ’64 showcase Lennon and McCartney’s exciting use of cadence and colorful extended chords. We’ll learn immortal pop classics including I Want To Hold Your Hand, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There, Tell Me Why and more all by ear!

NEW! Magical Mystery Chords
The Beatles employed every trick on the Circle of 5ths to write some of the most ear-catching musical phrasings in popular music. In this workshop we’ll play snippets of over 25 Beatles songs and examine how they used the emotional values found in chords to write some of the most popular music of all time. Songs include Hey Jude, Nowhere Man, Let It Be, Taxman, Octopus’ Garden, Eight Days A Week, Rain and many more!

Ben Hassenger

Visit Ben’s website

Ben Hassenger’s musical career began in the early 1970s when he was arrested for playing “Smoke on the Water” on accordion and singing in animal sounds in the cafeteria at Lansing Community College. It was the start of something special, for sure.

Ben now works as a music facilitator with Special Education children, teaches ukulele to students and teachers in Michigan school systems, seniors at Prime Time in East Lansing, as well as group and individual ukulele lessons at Elderly Instruments, Interlochen Center for the Arts, and Michigan State University’s Community Music School. He plays guitar and ukulele in the bands Blue Jello and The Ukulele Kings and is the co-founder of the Lansing (MI) Area Ukulele Group and the organizer of the Mighty Uke Day festival, Interlochen’s Uketoberfest, and the Midwest Uke Camp in Olivet . He is also a prolific songwriter, with two of his songs about the Detroit Tigers enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Ben’s a fun and involving performer with a variety of original songs about dogs, food, love, Michigan, and the other important things in life.

Ben’s Workshops

Uke From Scratch
One session, as the name implies.

Alternate Tunings – Why Sound Like Everyone Else?
(Confident Beginner to Intermediate)
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.

Ukulele Toolbox
(Confident Beginner to Intermediate)
Make a song your own with a variety of musical tools including alternate tunings, chord inversions, and strum patterns. Work together in small groups to create a unique rendition of a favorite song.

Intros, Endings, and Everything In-Between
(Confident Beginner)
Ben shares his nifty tips for getting your song off to a good start, working on fills and transitions in the body of the song, and wrapping things up with the proper ending. Learn to arrange the song to make it your own with accents and dynamics and you’ll have your audience swaying their cell phones to and fro and throwing money at your feet!

Victor Lissabet

Victor Lissabet is a board certified music therapist and music educator who has worked with students of all ages and abilities. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has explored an array of musical styles on several instruments. From old-time banjo and cajun fiddle, classical to metal guitar, Victor has found the common threads of inner musicality and expressive musical communication. Son to a Cuban father and Colombian mother, Victor has been learning, arranging, and performing Latin American music since his childhood. Currently Victor is an instructor and show director at the acclaimed Paul Green Rock Academy in Woodstock, New York.

Victor’s Workshops

Spanish 101
(Beginner/Confident Beginner)
Spanish 101: (Beginner/Confident Beginner)
As a member of the immediate and extended guitar family, the ukulele shares right hand techniques with instruments like Cuban tres, Brazilian cavaquinho, and Andean charango. These techniques were born and systemized, along with the guitar, in Spain. We’ll learn classical p-i-m-a exercises, as well as how to use techniques such as picado, arpegggio, tremelo, and alzapua. This will all be presented in a direct hands to uke manner, no need to read music, or know theory. This will be a great way to get learn the fundamentals of fingerpicking with a bit of cultural context.

The Cuban Connection
(Beginner to Intermediate)
Few musical traditions parallel the rhythmic prowess and depth of Afro-Cuban music. As an oral tradition, it is passed down from teacher to student a little at a time, in a process of unlocking latent human rhythmic potential. We will learn the first lesson, and most basic aspect of this tradition, la rumba clave. A simple pattern that takes a lifetime to master. We will apply this groove, and ways to weave rhythmically within it, to a few classic gems from the traditional Afro-Cuban repertoire. Singing in Spanish encouraged!

View 2016 Uke Fest info with schedule, photos and videos.