Three Down and Three to Go!

The first half of Ukulele Adventures 2018 has been nothing short of stellar.

Our first Kernville ‘Ukulele Blues and Harp Fest was a resounding success and reinforced the value of small-group retreats.  Plus, Catfish Jack!  What a great addition to our ‘ukulele family.  You’ll be seeing more of him, for sure. We already have dates for the 2019 Kernville event (March 7 – 10, 2019), so mark your calendar now! We’re committed to keeping it small and we expect to sell out, again.

And…then there was the “Love-in” at the West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat at Asilomar  in May.  Wow! Just Wow!  Sonny Bono rose from the dead to do a tune with Cher. Grace Slick dazzled us with “White Rabbit.” And the ghost of Janis Joplin was lurking in the sidelines.  Plus, it was fun to see some of our favorite instructors sporting full heads of hair…..long, beautiful hair. According to Jim D’Ville (and he’s only missed one or two of them), this was the best one yet.

And how can you not love summer camp? Especially if there’s an ‘ukulele involved? Camp Oo-Koo-Lay-Lay gave us all a chance to explore our inner muse and child craft on the shores of beautiful Lake Berryessa. Next year’s dates are all set up, so please mark your calendars: June 19 – 24, 2019.  Again, it’s about keeping it small, personal, and manageable.

Next stop: Paris and the Ukein’ Bike & Barge Trip with Phil Doleman. We are all sold out except we do have a shared cabin available . . . . . with a man you are sure to like.  So, if you’re interested, please let me know ASAP.  This is going to be so much fun….I have wiped all the dust and grime off my bike, put air in the tires, and I take it for a little spin each day to make sure I’ll be ready. And Phil and I have been conferring on the ‘ukulele portion…..full of surprises…’s going to be great.  If you didn’t get signed up for this (or the 2019 Italy Ukein’ Bike & Barge Trip) in time, I am sorry.  But stay tuned (by making sure you havesubscribed to the website), I will be adding another.

We still have room for a few more at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat in Hawi and have just added Fred and Lynn Sokolow to an already stellar line-up that includes Brad Bordessa, Kaliko Beamer Trapp, Robyn Kneubuhl, Kona Bob, and Lehua Ahsam. There will be a healthy mix of traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music, along with a whole lot of Tin Pan Alley, Blues, and Swing, and all the assorted skill sets necessary to play them well.  Robyn will also be teaching hula, Fred will be adding some slide ‘ukulele instruction, and Lynn will be offering some classes for bass players. In addition, attendees will have some unique opportunities to practice and perform with professional musicians. Registration for the Hawai’i Retreat is still open, but if you’d like to check to make sure there is a room available at the Kohala Village Inn first, you can visit their website. The last time I checked, they still had the following available: rooms with a single queen or two queens, or the Ohana suites (two rooms with a shared bathroom, suitable for 2, 3 or 4 people.)

And last, but in no way least, you should think about joining those merry ‘ukulele pranksters and practitioners, Daniel Ward, Heidi Swedberg, and Craig McClelland for our second installment of the New Uke-Culinary Fiesta in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, November 7 – 11. . . . .a chance to hone your ukulele chops while chopping onions for some delicious southwestern-inspired cuisine.  If you’re not sure what this might look like, you should check out the schedule.  We  still have room, but enrollment is limited to the capacity of El Paradero, our lovely ukulele home in Santa Fe.  You can register here.

That’s it for now! Hope you can join us on one our remaining Ukulele Adventures in 2018.  If not, perhaps we’ll see you in 2019!  We’ve got lots more ukulele fun in store for you in 2019!

Just One Room Left!

That’s right!  There is just one room left at Kernville’s iconic Pine Cone Inn for the 2018 Ukulele Blues & Harmonica Fest.  And while there are one or two other places to stay in Kernville if you miss out on this one, the Pine Cone is where it’s at!

Plus, it’s unlikely you’ll find another opportunity anywhere to get your blues on with your ‘ukulele and/or harmonica under the tutelage of two finer instructors and musicians than Kevin Carroll and Catfish Jack. And, you’ll have a chance to hone your skills on either or both instruments, regardless of your level of skill with either one.

So, please, Register now, and don’t miss your chance to be part of the inaugural Ukulele Blues & Harmonica Fest and what promises to be another stellar Ukulele Adventure.

There’s a Little Backwater Blues for Everyone!

No matter what your skill level (or instrument of choice), we’ll have you covered at the Kernville ‘Ukulele and Harp Fest, March 1 – 4, 2018, where everyone will have a chance to learn new skills on the ‘ukulele, bass, or harmonica.  And don’t worry that you may not be not up to the task;  Kevin Carroll’s original ‘ukulele arrangements have a little something for everyone, from beginners to pros.

And if you are ready to stretch (or just need a little fine tuning) you can take a couple of workshops with Catfish Jack and hone your harmonica skills on the same tunes.  At the very least, you’ll leave Kernville as a “double threat.” (And don’t forget, we’ll be looking for a few vocalists, as well.)

Then we’ll put it all together in small groups and/or big ensembles and work ’em ’til we have ’em down.

Registration ($439) closes February 15, 2018 and enrollment is limited. So don’t wait a minute more.

Register now!

“Those backwater blues done calling you to pack up your things and go.”

Still not convinced?  Here’s a little Bessie Smith.  Maybe she’ll help get you in the mood.

Viva Mexico y los Ukuleles!

Do you want to see how much fun you can have on an ukulele adventure with us?  Then check this out.

If you want to keep abreast of future Ukulele Adventures like this one, be sure to follow our blog.

And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Day 4 – Another Tequila Sunrise

Sunrise is going to offer some amazing views at Lake Chapala and its environs for the photographers willing to hit the road with Jordan at 6:30 am and still be back in time for breakfast at Casa del Sol.  But today’s Palabra del Dia will be with reporter Judy King, who has lived at Lake Chapala for 25 years and will give us the inside scoop on life as a Gringo in Mexico.

lady-organic-marketThen we’re heading out with our local chef, Oscar, for a quick visit the organic farmers’ market to learn about some of the fresh produce that may be new to us, to shop for the midday meal, and sample some of the other wares. (You might also want to pick up a few snacks and drinks for yourself!  It all looks so fresh and delicious.) Then it’s back to Casa del Sol for a couple more workshops with Heidi, Daniel and Oscar before we eat!

This time Oscar will be working with the more beginning ukulele students, while Heidi, and Daniel take on the rest with a choice of Finding and Freeing your Voice or Bossa Nova Training Wheels, followed by Spooky or Tuesday’s Just as Bad.

Plaza band stand gazeboThat midday siesta will be pretty welcome today, especially since we’ll be following it up with another band practice before heading out to the Plaza Band Stand, where we will be the featured performers! Heidi and Daniel have put together a Songbook of Tunes for us to play from and some of the songs will come right out of the workshops, so you’ll have a chance to practice and play before the really big sheeeeeew!  If you’re serious about performing…that will come later.  This event is really just about participating and letting anyone passing by see just how much fun a bunch of adults can have with an ukulele in their hands.  (My teen-aged son calls us “Old People Gone Wild!”)

Then we are in for a special dinner treat as Sheila Ruoff, our boots on the ground in Ajijic, will take us to her very favorite “hole-in-the-wall” (not its official name but the only one that has stuck over the years) for an authentic, and oh-so delicious, Mexican repast of tamales, empanadas, and more, produced by three local and charming women in a rustic village dwelling.  Despite its humble surroundings, this is a favorite among the gringos who live in Ajijic. But if the rusticity makes you squeamish, there are plenty of other fine dining establishments for you to try.

By the end of this day, I think we will be thoroughly pooped, and a quiet evening back at Casa del Sol will be just the thing.

Here’s the scoop on the day’s ukulele workshops:


keep-calm-and-blame-it-on-the-bossa-novaLike champagne, the Bossa Nova goes with everything and gives it a little class. . . . .not to mention sex appeal.) And, it’s  not that difficult to learn, either. For this workshop Daniel Ward has put together a series of simple, but sexy plucking patterns that will give all your uke-playing a Brazilian Wax!  And you’ll be astonished at all the music it works with: jazz, folk, and tons of other songs you already know!  And when you start getting all that attention when you get back home, you can just “Blame it on the Bossa Nova.”  (Daniel Ward – Level 2 – 4)

It turns out, that if you can speak, then you can sing and in this workshop Heidi Swedberg (who doesn’t seem to have any trouble being heard) will teach you some well-honed techniques and exercises to help you raise your voice.  Come on!  You know it’s in there somewhere!  (Heidi Swedberg – All Levels)

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. (Heidi Swedberg – Level 2-4)


This is a continuation of Daniel Ward’s Stormy Monday workshop where participants will have already learned the foundation of playing the blues and will now have an opportunity to expand on the lessons learned with an even more advanced set of skills so Wednesday won’t be worse and Thursday won’t be sad.  Check out the video with T-Bone Walker to see what we’re talking about.  (Daniel Ward – Level 3 – 4)

Days One & Two

In case you are wondering how you might be spending your time with us during La Semana de Uke-Culinary Fiesta in January…..Here ya’ go:

Day one: Saturday, January 24

Folks will be arriving at various times throughout the day, but we’ll plan on gathering for a little welcome party at Casa del Sol, then catch a little shut-eye before the action really begins bright and early Sunday morning.

Sunday, January 25

fruit_bowlBreakfast at la Casa del Sol, followed by La Palabra del Dia with Sheila, our lovely hostess and inspiration for our journey South of the Border. Then we’re off!  Photographer can take off with Jordan to explore the town of Ajijic with their cameras, while the rest of us stay behind for some ukulele workshops: Easy Pickin’s with Heidi or Spice it Up with Daniel.  (There will be ample time to “explore” the town, later.)  And then the cooking begins!  Daniel will take the first group of erstwhile chefs to the kitchen to learn and prep the midday meal, while the rest of us settle in for a few more ukulele workshops: Keep Your Motor Running with Elaine, followed by the Song Writer’s Toolbox with Heidi, as our midday meal is being prepared. And then it’s time for lunch!

img_6723Among the myriad of local customs we will be embracing while South of the Border, is the mid-day siesta, a time to pause and reflect, to practice what you learned, to jam or socialize with friends,  or (now here’s a thought) rest.  And rest you should, because the afternoon’s activities launch off with a stirring workshop (and fabulous song) taught by Heidi and Daniel together, “Turn the World Around,”  followed by our first Band Practice.

el-jardin-de-ninetteThen we’ll partake in a another lovely local custom, the Sunday afternoon stroll along the malecón, where the setting sun on the lovely lake should provide ample photo opportunities and inspiration for an impromptu song or two. (Don’t forget your ukes!) Dinner will be on your own, though, there is no shortage of fabulous places to eat in Ajijic. Those who are not feeling that adventurous might like to grab a bite at El Jardin de Ninette, right at our B&B, Casa del Sol (you can see what the reviewers have to say on Trip Advisor!)  The best part about that plan is the very short walk back to your room!

In case you need a refresher: Here’s a description of the day’s ‘ukulele workshops.

EASY PICKIN’S: A simple path to Travis picking with great stops in between

rancho_grandeHere’s an opportunity to learn how to enrich your playing form and style without compromising fluidity.  Sticking with our South of the Border 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. (Heidi Swedberg – Level 2-3)

SPICE IT UP: Learning to play chord melodies

If you’re ready to apply a lot more focus to what is going on with each of your hands and produce a recognizable song without the lyrics then you are ready to take a stab at chord melodies.  Specifically, in this workshop you will be learning a different, and more challenging way to play some of the tunes we’ll be working on as a group: “Alle en el Rancho Grande” and “De Colores.”  But, more importantly, you’ll come away with the skills needed to start creating chord melodies for your favorite tunes, as well. (Daniel Ward – Level 3-4)

KEEP YOUR MOTOR RUNNING: Revving up your ukulele engine

Two-chord songs are the backbone of any beginners’ repertoire. Not only are they a great tool to practice common (and frequently necessary) chord changes, they can help form the basis of learning to play by ear.  They’re easy to memorize (and should be memorized) so you can escape your reliance on the dreaded “paper” and begin to feel the song. They also offer a pathway to learning how to modulate….that is, changing a song from one key to another. (Elaine de Man – Level 1-2)

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. (Heidi Swedberg – All Levels)

314-16TURN THE WORLD AROUND: Fun in 5/4

For our first play-along together, Heidi and Daniel will be teaching us the delightful little intricacies of  “Turn the World Around,” a lovely little tune from Africa, made famous by Harry Belafonte (and the Sukey Jump Band.) At first glance, it would appear to be a simple, 3-chord song.  But it has an interesting twist!  It is played in 5/4 time!  “What is that?” you might well wonder.  Well, all will be revealed while we all have loads of fun learning to play and sing this lively little tune (and more).  It’s a great one for jam sessions, sing-alongs, and all manner of musical merriment. This is a great workshop for non-players, as well. (Heidi Swedberg and Daniel Ward – All Levels)


Playing music with others, stepping out of your comfort zone, and performing for others is absolutely the best way to advance your musical skills and raise the bar on fun. (Just ask anyone who has attended either the West Coast or Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreats!) Here’s how it works. Each retreat participant will be assigned to a “band” under the leadership of one of our esteemed instructors.  Among other things, you will learn a little song arranging, a smidgen of band dynamics, some new performance skills, and how to play well with others. At the end of the retreat you will have a chance to strut your stuff during our last night’s Student Cabaret.  It’s the most fun you’ll ever have with your ‘ukulele on. Costumes, props, and dance routines are encouraged.  (Entire Staff – All Levels)

Playing in the Minor Key

Just had to share this one with you guys…..along with a description of the ukulele workshop Heidi Swedberg will be teaching at La Semana de Uke-Culinary Fiesta in Mexico in January.

Plaiyng in the Minor Keys

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. (Heidi Swedberg – Level 2-4)

We have filled all of our rooms at Casa del Sol, but still have space available at Estrellita’s for couples, doubles, singles, and triples if you’d like to join us.   I don’t know about you, but we have a huge winter storm coming our way. I’m thinking Mexico will be mighty welcome come January!

Register now!