Ben Hassenger is known as the “Ukulele Ambassador of Michigan” for good reason. After a 2009 visit to Hawaii, he was hooked on the ukulele and over the years since has founded the Lansing Area Ukulele Group, the Mighty Uke Day festival, Midwest Uke & Harmonica Camp, Uketoberfest at Interlochen, and Hiawatha Music’s Yooper Uke Week. Now, after assisting Gerald Ross at the Ashokan Uke Fest in New York, he is now the artistic director of the festival.
Ukulele education is a priority for Ben; and in 2014, he established Music is the Foundation, a non-profit that supports ukulele music programs in Michigan classrooms and communities. He performs and teaches at a variety of uke events across North America, spreading the joy and camaraderie of the “jumping flea”. A songwriter and baseball fan, he has two songs about the Detroit Tigers enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Katie DeNure is a certified Bilingual Literacy teacher and a classically trained vocalist who teaches guitar, ukulele, and voice in a wide range of styles. She is also a singer/songwriter. Since 2002, Katie has had the privilege to lead hundreds of youth conferences, women’s retreats, church services, and special events. Katie has been teaching private music lessons since 2008 and has also worked with the Renaissance School for the Arts and other music programs all over the United States and abroad. She has a thriving YouTube channel of over 300,000 subscribers that provides a free resource for musicians of all levels and has worked with companies such as Enya and Córdoba developing educational resources.
Eduardo Garcia is a multi-instrumentalist from Mexico who moved in Vancouver in 2017. On his journey, he studied and played music in a large variety of environments, worlds, and languages. Being both classically and traditionally trained, he was active in music projects in Mexico; teaching, performing, and writing. He plays a variety of traditional Mexican stringed instruments, cello, and ukulele.
Eduardo founded the Academia de Ukuleles de la Ribera (Lakeside Ukulele Academy), a music school that provides instruments and free music lessons to all children in his community. After moving to Vancouver, he he became a teacher at Ruby’s Ukes and conducts Ruby’s Ukulele Orchestra. He has participated in the Vancouver Ukulele Festival, the Ajijic Ukulele Retreat (Mexico), Coquitlam Ukulele Mini Festival (Canada) in Beyond Trad Music Camp (Canada), and the Seoul International Aloha Ukulele Festival (South Korea).
ELIZABETH SAFLEY BRINKER
Liz Brinker, from poetically-named Rockville, MD, and, originally, Oklahoma, has been musically involved since day one. Dance came first, closely followed by choirs of all manner and music theater through young adulthood. While single and lonely, she bought her first guitar at The House Of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park, MD and immediately embarked on a decades-long love affair…until she met the ukulele. “Where have you been all my life?”, she asked. The instrument answered, “My dog has fleas.” They are living happily ever after. After a 16-year stint teaching early-childhood music classes for Music Together, Liz teaches guitar, mandolin and, primarily, ukulele from home, when she is not making Acapella videos like a madwoman.
Christopher Davis-Shannon’s music is the essence of honest simplicity. Bringing together influence ranging from Fats Waller to Chet Baker, he creates an atmosphere that will instantly transport you back to jazz clubs and speakeasies of the early 20th century. Not content being labelled a traditionalist, he forges ahead breathing new life into old classics, weaving together a sound that is enjoyed by both young and old.
As a multi-Instrumentalist, songwriter, and educator based in Philadelphia, Davis-Shannon maintains a steady tour schedule with his own music as well as a sideman for various acts. He brings to the stage not just the pure joy of music, but a vast knowledge of the history behind the songs that he holds close to his heart. His intricate instrumental work and plaintive vocals are infused with soulfulness which cannot be faked, and a respect for his predecessors which is rarely equaled.