Most folks remember Heidi Swedberg as George Costanza’s ill-fated, envelope-licking fiancée on the hit TV series Seinfeld. But those of us who have had the pleasure of spending time with Heidi at Camp Oo-Koo-Lay-Lay, or the West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat, or the Wine Country ‘Ukulele Festival, know her as a is a fun-loving, talented, and enthusiastic ukulele instructor, singer-songwriter, and performer.
And we’ve just found out she is a fabulous (and enthusiastic) cook, as well….specializing in cuisine (and music) that is just a little hot and spicy! So, who better to headline La Semana de Uke-Culinary Fiesta, a week-long celebration of music, fun, and food, than Heidi Swedberg?
Though she now lives in Los Angeles, Heidi was born in Hawai’i and received her first ‘ukulele from the Easter Bunny when she was five. (How perfect is that?) But the place she thinks of as home is Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she grew up…..sort of. It was while playing the role of a singer/songwriter for a television pilot in 1992 (several years after the famous Seinfold episode where she dies from licking the toxic glue on her wedding invitations) that Heidi began playing the ‘ukulele again and composing her own music. In the spring of 2009 she made her first cd, Play, to facilitate teaching ukulele: something a student could listen to, practice along with, and enjoy, and she has just released her second CD, A Cup of Tea.
Today, Heidi teaches ‘ukulele across the country on a regular basis and organizes “play” parties for groups of all ages performing with the Sukey Jump Band. She has also just launched The Smoking Jackets with Heidi Swedberg, the same crazy fun, but geared toward more “mature” audiences. And you’d hard-pressed to find a more talented group of musicians, songsters, funsters, and ukulele players, anywhere, than these guys.
Heidi, too, has become our go-to person for obscure songs that need to be brought to the forefront and workshops on stagecraft and overcoming stage fright. She is, in all ways, the perfect match for all the serious fun and learning we expect to engage in while we’re in Mexico this coming January 24 – 31. And she will be key in establishing an ukulele program for the local children living in Ajijic, the lovely Mexican village where we will be based.
Here’s what Heidi is bringing to the table for us (in addition to fun in the kitchen!):
PLAY THE UKULELE IN A DAY!
The ukulele is such a simple instrument that the first step is a doozie! You can go from never having touched a stringed instrument before in your life to playing dozens of songs in just one hour! This is a great way for new players to begin their musical journey with loads of laughs, singing, and playing. After this workshop, you’ll be clamoring for more.
EASY PICKINGS: A simple path to Travis picking with great stops in between
Here’s an opportunity to learn how to enrich your playing form and style without compromising fluidity. Sticking with our theme, you’ll be learning some very simple picking patterns that you can use with a couple of traditional tunes such as Alle en el Rancho Grande and De Colores, that have a rhythmic power on their own and will lead you painlessly toward the iconic sound of Travis picking.
SONGWRITER’S TOOLBOX: Turning inspiration into alchemy
Sometimes you’ll hear a songwriter say, “That song just wrote itself.” What they’re not telling you is that there already existed a structural framework that held it all together. In this workshop you will learn what that framework is and will come away with the tools necessary to turn your idea, or any idea, into a song.
MODULATION Can Be Fun: Exploring the fretboard
Believe it or not, even beginning players are ready to “modulate,” with a closed chord shape they already know: Bb. In this workshop you will learn how to carry the Bb shape up the fretboard, opening up a whole new set of chords you didn’t know you already knew! It’s the step that will help you understand the entire fretboard and how to explore the wilderness above the third fret all on your own. And guess what? It can be fun!
FREIGHT TRAIN, FREIGHT TRAIN: Easy pickin’ and modulatin’ in the same track
Pulling two previous workshops together, you, too, will be “going so fast,” once you put a few second-position chords and the simple, Travis picking pattern together in 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. It’s one of those workshops that will take you a long, long way. All aboard!
OWN IT!: Making a song your own
Just watch Heidi perform anything from the antic-ridden “Istanbul,” to the soulful “’Til There Was You” and you’ll understand the difference between simply playing a song and “owning” it. Whether you are singing, playing your ‘ukulele (or any instrument), or doing both at once, knowing the words and the notes and playing them flawlessly is just the beginning. In this workshop Heidi will guide you through the critical next step you need to take in order to transform the song you love into something that carries your personal stamp and something your audience will love, as well.
SPOOKY: Playing in the Minor Leagues
Let’s get down and dark and expand our musical repertoire by pulling up some possibilities from the minor keys. In this workshop you will learn a little about the Circle of Fifths, but more importantly you will learn how those eerie minor chords not only add interest to the songs you are playing, but are (and can be) used to alter the mood and meaning, entirely. And you thought “You are my Sunshine” was a happy song……..wait until you hear it played in the minor key.
And that is just the beginning!
If you think you’d like to join Heidi and the rest of us for one week of fun, in the warm Mexican sun, please visit the website: La Semana de Uke-Culinary Fiesta! We still have rooms available in all categories: King (couple), Double, Single, and Triple.
Hasta la vista, Baby! Hope to see you there!