Last year Wine Country Ukulele Festival was a wild and busy experience! I was filling in for Andy Andrews as MC who was helping his son Eli recover from a terrible car crash. This year we have something to celebrate- their incredible success! Eli is now back in his life surrounded by love in full bloom, love made stronger and richer by the ordeal and trials it passed through.
Between teaching classes, performing, doing a kid’s show and introducing all the incredible performers I met the lovely folks from UKULELE MAGAZINE who did a short interview with me and took a few pictures. I was VERY surprised to see my face on the cover of the magazine four months later! It’s like the cover of the Rolling Stone for uke players!
I am very happy to be returning this year as just a teacher and performer. Andy’s shoes were a little too big for me, and I am relieved to be handing them back!
I will be teaching a bunch of new workshops and am working on my materials now, with Daniel’s help. Yes, not only can he play, he can TRANSCRIBE! Daniel’s got an all new curriculum as well. I have copied the class descriptions below to give you an idea of what you can sign up for- and I urge you to do it soon! Some of the workshops are filling up already. I must admit that I am particularly excited about the lyrical improv class, “Me and my Big Mouth”! That one doesn’t even require you to play a uke!
Learn to Play in a Day
Heidi Swedberg LOVES to teach absolute beginners. The more absolute, the better. And by the end of one session, she guarantees you will be singing and playing songs on your uke and laughing a heck of a lot. While anyone, of any age, is welcome to attend this workshop, we ask that kids under 8 be accompanied by a participating adult.
Me and My Big Mouth
There’s a knack to thinking on your feet with your uke in your hand and being the life of the party. And one of the sure fire ways to make sure you, and your uke are invited back, is with this little repertoire of fun songs that allow you to make up the lyrics as you go along and throw in a punchline or two. Under the direction (and whacky inspiration) of Heidi Swedberg, who is a master of lyrical improvisation, you will learn how to use a couple of classic tunes to be as bawdy (or not) as you wish. It’s a terrific way to connect with your audience in a timely fashion and bring a smile to more faces than just your own. If you’ve ever seen Heidi in action and wondered “how does she do it?” come to this workshop and find out.
If You Had a Hammer
If you had a hammer, you’d probably hammer in the morning…..and all over this land. But first you’d need to know how to swing it, and that’s what this workshop is all about. Here, Heidi Swedberg will work with you on a couple of popular tunes that you probably already know, but, with the addition of a few simple left-hand techniques, known as hammers and pull-offs, you will be able to add “grace” or melody notes that will add piles of pizzazz to these, otherwise, very simple tunes. Not only that, you’ll come away with some fun songs to practice with, that will help your left hand move confidently and powerfully across each of the strings and along the entire fretboard.
Freight Train, Freight Train
You, too, will be “going so fast,” once you have learned a few second-position chords and the simple, Travis picking pattern offered in this workshop by Heidi Swedberg. And what better song to practice it on than Elizabeth Cotton’s iconic song, Freight Train, Freight Train, a tune written more than 100 years ago and a great song to have in your quiver. Plus, once you get this technique down, you’ll realize there are more tunes in your repertoire you can use this classic picking pattern with. All aboard for the ride of your life!
Heart and Soul
No need to lose control, though, because Heidi Swedberg will guide you every step of the way as you navigate the Circle of Fifths, exploring the lovely chord progression in this great American standard. And, as a bonus, you’ll learn the bridge! (Nobody knows the bridge!) Not only that, this workshop will open up a whole new world of musical insight that will carry over into just about every tune you’ll ever play on your ‘ukulele. Believe me; we all need a little heart and soul.
The Old Switcheroo
One of the biggest challenges facing any beginning player (and a number of more advanced players, as well) is switching the fingers on your left hand from one chord to another in a seamless and timely fashion. It’s hard! But, it doesn’t have to be. In this workshop Daniel Ward will show you how to make those changes with little, or no, effort at all through a series of easy exercises and some expert advice that will let you relax and enjoy the music, without any pain or frustration.
Take one tune and put it through several different style changes with your right hand and what have you got? Ethno-ukeolgy. From the friendly Travis pick to the more complex strums of Latin America and the Caribbean, Daniel Ward will teach you how to “cook” on the strings with some tasty spices, including (but not limited to) calypso, salsa, reggae, and country! Slow practice in class will make sure that you get it all under your skin before trying this at home, and handouts will make sure you get it right. Sounds like a hoot and necessary information to have under your belt. Plus you can have a little fun with it. How about “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with a calypso beat?
Stormy Weekend Part 1
Actually, the title of the song is “Stormy Monday,” the blues classic that will serve as the foundation for this 2-part workshop by Daniel Ward. Learning to play the blues provides such a solid foundation for any player’s repertoire, that we recommend you take at least one of our blues workshops, even if you don’t take anything else. In this one, developed for more experienced players, Daniel will cover both familiar and advanced chord shapes in time with the changes, as well as the pentatonic and blues scales in major and minor for soloing. You can count on some good right hand attention too, exploring the strengths of finger-style, strumming, and using a pick. By the end of the second workshop you will be “trading chords and solos” as partners and come away with a whole set of new skills to help tackle any blues song on your own. Part 1 is highly recommended if you want to take Part 2.
Stormy Weekend Part 2
This is an extension, primarily for more advanced players of Stormy Weekend, Part 1, focusing on the more advanced chord shapes and right hand technique, including finger-style, strumming, and using a pick. The blues classic “Stormy Monday” will serve as the foundation. By the end of this workshop you will be “trading chords and solos” as partners and come away with a whole set of new skills to help tackle any blues song on your own. To get the most out of this workshop, you should take Stormy Weekend, Part 1.
All of Me!
Why not take all of me? It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore and learn this iconic tune with Daniel Ward and discover all its lovely jazz changes without getting lost! And, since the tune itself travels through several different keys, you’ll start to get a feel for how the dominant chord can take you places you didn’t know you wanted to go! And you’ll be learning some basic jazz strumming techniques at the same time. By the end of the session, you’ll not only have a new tune under your belt, you’ll also have a pocketful of tricks to apply to other songs of the genre. Can’t you see? You’re no good without this.
Do the Fandango!
- 1. a lively Spanish dance for two people, typically accompanied by castanets or tambourine, or 2. a foolish or useless act or thing. For our purposes, we’ll go with the first definition, a 12-count rhythm that requires some thumb work and fancy strumming, with temolo, scales, and rageuados for the right hand, to get that traditional flamenco sound. And who better to give it to you than Daniel Ward, a professional flamenco guitarist for the past 30 years? With a traditional flamenco fandango under your belt, you’ll be set to play on your own for hours and sound simply amazing…not a foolish or useless thing at all. A low G is a plus if you have one, but skills and techniques learned here will work well with re-entrant tuning, as well.
(Heidi and Daniel don’t always refer to themselves in the third person, but when Heidi and Daniel do…. Thanks, Elaine DeMann for writing up such lively course descriptions! Too good not to steal!)