Heidi Swedburg at Centrum ukulele workshops

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About Ukulele


Become inspired with others who share the same love of ukulele music as you do! Established in 2013, the Ukulele Festival is five full days of instruction and community building with some of the finest instructors and musicians playing today.

This year, the workshops feature a world-class group of faculty performers who’ll teach a wide variety of styles – jazz, blues, swing, Hawaiian, pop, novelty and jug band ukulele.

Ukulele Facts

  • Director: Marianne Brogan
  • Established in 2013
  • Styles: jazz, blues, swing, Hawaiian, pop, jug band, ska, reggae, opera, bluegrass
  • Sessions: Folk Baritone Fingerpicking, Songwriting, Harmonies, Rounds

Experience Ukulele

A five-day festival is a great way to increase your playing, songwriting, and performance skill set. Please note the playing level needed for each workshop.

For baritone ukulele players, there will be some baritone (DGBE-tuning) classes; and some classes will combine standard ukulele tuning (high or low G) and baritone tuning DGBE.

2023 Workshop Descriptions

Mississippi John Hurt for Ukulele – Del Rey
Intermediate to advanced fingerpickers. Three-day class.
Learn to play ukulele versions of Richland Woman, Make Me A Pallet, and Monday Morning Blues in their original keys; how to hear what chord positions John Hurt is playing from; and where those positions are found on the ukulele.

Papa Charlie Jackson for C tuned Ukulele – Del Rey
Charlie Jackson was born in 1887 and recorded on starting in 1924 on a banjo guitar. His music is full of influential motifs and his instrumental style works well for strummers or fingerpickers. We’ll learn to play several of his songs, with each class being complete in itself – you can drop in, or come to all three. Be completely comfortable with first position chords in both closed and open positions. By ear, no tab.

Introduction to 12-Bar Blues – Daniel Ward
All levels. Three-day class builds on each day, but higher level players can drop in on Day 2 or 3.
Dig into the blues with an immersive approach to rhythm, easy lyrics, and simple soloing. Players of all levels will benefit, as we break down how it all works. We will slowly move through easy chords and build groovy patterns that are used to “speak” the language of the blues. Lots of repetition and fun group interaction in this workshop.

The Art and Ritual of Practice – Daniel Ward
Level 2 and up. Three-day class; drop-ins OK but the material builds with each class.
Using several methods and materials, we’ll focus on how to create and manage a great inner and outer space as you work on your music. By running through a daily ritual, we’ll build a way to practice that keeps working long after you’ve left the festival.

Big Little Songs: Rounds and Lullabies – Heidi Swedberg
Confident beginner and up. Drop ins OK.
Soothe your soul and build your skills using short melodic pieces. This class explores tab reading, chord melody, and ensemble playing techniques while building your song repertoire with beautiful pieces from around the world, including a lovely Ukrainian song.

Sing Your Strings: Using Your Uke to Find Vocal Harmonies – Heidi Swedberg
All levels. Drop ins OK.
Play and sing fun songs, including sea chanties, as you learn to use the strings of your instrument to guide your voice. Singing harmony is simpler than you may think. If you are a duo, in an ensemble or play with a group, this class will give you skills to explore and expand your musical experience.

Introduction to Playing Smeck Chord Melodies – Rachel Manke
Level 2-4. Three-day class.
Roy Smeck, a master vaudevillian, arranged some fantastic chord melodies (using both chords and solo notes for a full song). We’ll learn to play some! Starting with a simple one, we’ll work our way up to play a couple of more complicated ones. Some right-hand and other technique will be learned/applied along the way. You should have knowledge of basic chords (and be able to change easily) and a confident strumming hand in order to get the most out of this class.

These Two P’s – Rachel Manke
Level 1-3. Drop-ins OK.
This drop-in course has two topics:
1. Parody writing: learn how to write a comic parody of a song from the ground up. Amuse your friends!
2. Patter: learn how to write and deliver entertaining stage patter (stories) between your songs when you perform for an audience.
If the class group on any given day has a preference for one of the two topics, we’ll spend more time on that one.

Songwriting with Victoria Vox - Victoria Vox
All levels. Three-day class, Drop-ins OK.
Victoria Vox (BM, Songwriting, Berklee ’00) will guide the melodies, chords, and ideas in your head into something tangible and unleash the creative songwriter within you. We’ll use popular song examples to analyze harmonic and melodic structure. Bring in your WIPs (works in progress), even if it’s just a small bud of an idea! Through song analysis and crafted strategies, you’ll learn how to rewrite/edit, get out of a rut, make your current song stronger, find and fix any problem spots, play with rhythm, rhyming, and harmony, and learn which song structure is best suited for your title. It’s sometimes hard to self-critique your own song and find the thing that isn’t “working for you.” Victoria will offer constructive criticism and some real solutions!

I’ll Be at the Barre – Victoria Vox
Level 2-3.
This will be a comprehensible “ice-breaker” into the world of barre chords. Guaranteed to be an enjoyable experience as we play with chords and chord qualities. Barre intimidation no more! We’ll end the class by playing Three Little Birds (Bob Marley) while using some barre chords and even adding a melodic riff!

Introduction to Left-Hand Movement – Victoria Vox
Level 2-4.
Learn an instrumental Celtic-style song, “Ship Goes Down,” with chords and melody! Based off a C major scale, we’ll use chord and non-chord tones – applied with the technique of strumming and plucking – which outlines the melody. We’ll also use hammer-ons and pull-offs as a left-hand technique. Music and tab will be provided. Techniques and concepts from this class can be applied to any song. It will change the way you play…forever!

Get in the Groove – Victoria Vox
Level 2-4.
In this very hands-on class, we’ll play around with different rhythms and grooves. Over a very simple chord progression, we’ll work on loosening up the right hand for fun strums! The groove even starts before you play a note! We’ll play a simple tune in many different styles: pop, jazz, ska, swing, blues, reggae, opera, bluegrass, etc. This class is groovy,100% fun, and a bit of a strumming crash course!

How to Become a Smooth Operator With Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G major – Daniel Ho
Level 2-3 (confident beginner to intermediate). Three-day class, drop-ins OK.
Central to Daniel’s fingerstyle sound is the delivery of smooth, connected melodies. Learn to play this beautiful piece in a legato style by applying the campanella technique, which is the use of bell-like tones. This is achieved by playing linear passages across adjacent strings. We will learn how campanella is put in motion to create this flowing ukulele arrangement, and how it can make any melody sound more lyrical and full.

Go For Baroque! Ensemble Class for Pachelbel’s Canon – Daniel Ho
Level 2-3 (confident beginner to intermediate). Three-day class, low G string recommended.
Ensemble playing that utilizes the full range of the ukulele. As we learn to play Pachelbel’s Canon, Daniel shows how the sections of this chaconne – a piece based on a repeating chord progression – is combined to create a spectacular ukulele symphony! The result of this arrangement can possibly be a performance piece in the PT Uke Fest final party/open-mic if attendees feel ready to “go for broke.”

The Artful Accompanist – Nikki Dee
Level 3-4. Drop-in class.
An in-depth look at how singers and soloists approach their “role” in a duo, trio, or full band. By learning to carefully listen to and anticipate the musician(s) you are accompanying, you can spontaneously adapt your playing style to best complement their choices and shine right alongside them!
Using real-life examples and arrangements from her own bands, professional vocalist and ukuleleist Nikki Dee shows you how to add variety and interest to your accompaniments using different strumming techniques, rhythms/grooves, simple picking patterns, and musical dynamics. Each class culminates in a fun-filled, group performance challenge incorporating all of the accompaniment skills learned that day.

Vocal F.I.T.-ness Workshop – Nikki Dee
All levels. Three-day class.
Join award-winning vocalist and 20-year veteran vocal coach Nikki Dee for an exclusive mini-masterclass based on her signature vocal coaching program, The Deeva Academy. This specially-tailored workshop introduces key elements from her program’s F.I.T. Framework (Foundation, Integration, Technique) and covers many basic principles of healthy singing, confident performance, and overall musicianship.
Though intended for ukulele players who love to sing and play, instruments will NOT be required during this class – just your amazing voice, a big bottle of water, and an open mind! Smile optional.

Folk Baritone Fingerpicking – Aaron Keim
Level 2-3. Three-day class.
Join Aaron for three-finger style tunes for the baritone ukulele. Two traditional and one original, all three in different tunings! The tunes will be taught in tablature format, with lots of demonstration for “by ear” and visual learners.

Western Swing and Cowboy Jazz – Aaron Keim
All levels. Drop-in class, baritone ukes welcome.
Strum, sing, and pick some of Aaron’s favorite songs. Western Swing has it all: great melodies, interesting chords, a danceable beat, cool string band instruments and cowboy hats. This was the topic of Aaron’s master’s degree thesis, so you can expect some historical nerd talk too.

Swing That Thing! – Adam Franklin
Level 2-4. Three-day class.
This class will spend time on swing tunes in the hot style of the proto R&B vocal groups such as Cats And The Fiddle and The Spirits Of Swing. Both of these groups made use of a ‘tiple’ which is similar in size and pitch to a ukulele, making these arrangements great for uke! The class will look at the following: What makes a tune ‘swing’?, different strumming techniques, playing alternate chord voicings and easy ways to add melodic improvisation. Charts provided.

Bo’s Bananas! The Blues Style Of Bo Carter – Adam Franklin
Level 3-4 and maybe an intrepid beginner. Drop-ins OK.
Bo Carter was a terrific musician and had many risqué hits in the 1930’s. Although well known for these, Bo also recorded many blues, dance tunes, and even romantic songs! The class starts by looking at the basic chord structure before picking the rhythm and melody making these tunes great for solo or group playing. This class takes a tune a day, songs covered and chosen from are: I Get The Blues, Beans, Banana In Your Fruit Basket, Sorry Feeling Blues, Twist It Babe, and Dinner Blues.

California Dreamin’ – Brook Adams
Level 3-4. Drop ins OK.
Pop music of the 60s on ukulele. Some simple instrumentals, some duets, and of course we’re gonna sing. We’ll play Herb Alpert, Mamas and the Papas, Tom Jones. Country soul and rock ‘n’ roll.

Slow Chord Melody: – Brook Adams
Level 3-4. Drop ins OK.
Solo instrumentals! So satisfying to play, but often challenging. We’ll learn classic tunes whose slow tempos make them easier to play; how to keep the rhythm going as we play single notes; how to play double stops; and a few chord variations to create an audio-illusion of fullness. You may ask, “Can I bring my baritone and pet iguana?” The answer is “Yes!”

Clawhammer Uke Workshop – Jere Canote
Requires a uke with a high G fourth string. Drop- in class, pick your skill level!
A complete overview of the clawhammer technique begins at the start of the festival with the simple skills and builds them up.
Beginning: the bum-diddy rhythm, basic skills.
Intermediate: melodic skills, hammer-ons, pull-offs, simple arrangements.
Advanced: harder arrangements, up the neck chords and melodies, alternate tunings.

Canote Brother’s Band – Jere and Greg Canote
All levels. Drop-in class.
Come sing and play your heart out on some of our favorite songs! From Tin Pan Alley, and the early days of recorded music. Songs of love, humor, and rural living! Song sheets and playing tips provided.

Ukulele Faculty

Photo of Brook Adams

Brook Adams


Brook is an atavistic dinosaur of 20th century pop. His songs evoke a timeless blend of soul, surf & psychedelia. He is a skilled player on guitar and ukulele.

Photo of Marianne Brogan

Marianne Brogan

Artistic Director

Marianne Brogan grew up in a musical family and played flute, piano, guitar and drums. In middle age she found her instrument – the ukulele – and that was that.

She founded the Portland (Oregon) Ukulele Association in 2001, and has been happily teaching ukulele, and organizing events for well over a decade.

Photo of Canote Bros

Canote Bros


Photo of Nikki Dee

Nikki Dee


Nikki Dee is an award-winning vocalist and transformational vocal coach based in Honolulu. Her renowned Deeva Method takes the mystery and confusion out of vocal technique, making vocal power, confidence, and healing accessible to singers and speakers around the world.

Photo of Nova Karina Devonie

Nova Karina Devonie


Nova Karina Devonie hails originally from Vancouver, B.C. She has been delighting audiences with her sensitive (and sometimes humorous) accordion playing, sonorous singing style, and sideways fashion sense since the 1980’s.

Photo of Daniel Ho

Daniel Ho


From his simple beginnings in Honolulu to his life amid the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, Daniel Ho has worked over the years as a musician, producer, singer/songwriter, arranger, composer, engineer, and record company owner. The most compelling of these roles has been as a six-time GRAMMY Award winning producer, featured slack key guitarist, and artist in the “Best Hawaiian Music Album,” “Best Pop Instrumental Album,” and “Best World Music Album” categories.

Photo of Aaron Keim

Aaron Keim


Aaron Keim is a historian, banjo picker, ukulele ambassador, old time songster, luthier and author. Aaron has been teaching ukulele and banjo techniques and performing at festivals since 2004. As an educator with a bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a master’s degree in Musicology, his true talents lie in his ability to adapt instruction to fit a wide range of learners and learning styles.

Photo of Rachel Manke

Rachel Manke


Rachel Manke has been playing the ukulele for over 20 years. It’s the passion that has fueled adventure and friendships in her life. She is a skilled player in a vaudeville vein who has taken flourish and technique from that stage into various genres.

Photo of Del Rey

Del Rey


Del Rey started playing guitar when she was four years old. At thirteen, she was immersed in the world of folk music, via the San Diego Folk Festival. She has tried to get a whole band onto her solo instrument from the beginning. This gives her music an interesting complexity, especially when applied to the ukulele.

Photo of Heidi Swedberg

Heidi Swedberg


When she was 5 years old Heidi received her first ukulele from the Hawaiian Easter bunny while living in Kailua, HI. She has fond memories of teaching herself chords and writing songs in her room in Albuquerque NM, the place she thinks of as home. She picked the instrument up again in 1992 in Hollywood, CA while playing a singer-songwriter for a network TV pilot. Now life imitates art, and she plays music full time.

Photo of Victoria Vox

Victoria Vox


Victoria Davitt, better known as Victoria Vox, is an award-winning, ukulele-toting, performing songwriter. With a passion for writing songs since she was 10 years old, she went on to graduate with a degree in Songwriting from the Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA).

Photo of Daniel Ward

Daniel Ward


Daniel Ward is an accomplished musician, composer and educator, who has become one of the country’s top clinicians and performers on the ‘ukulele circuit’. He is known for his command of Latin styles and teaches right hand techniques, adapting his style and knowledge from the classical and flamenco guitar.

Photo of Matt Weiner

Matt Weiner


Big tone and solid rhythm have made Matt Weiner one of the busiest bass players in the Northwest. Inspired by the “prebop” bass players and their music, he’s slapping out a syncopated jazz feel on one tune, on another bowing a folksy melody.

Centrum has a variety of ways to be able to attend our workshops even if you’re on a budget. If you need financial assistance, Centrum has a robust scholarship program awarded on a first-come, first-served; and as-needed basis.

Tuition: $500
Private dorm room: $220
Meals only/3 meals/day: $230
Lunches only: $60

Workshop tuition includes admission to everything including great seats at all public performances. Your meal ticket is good for three meals per day.

If you need financial assistance, Centrum has a robust scholarship program. Apply online as you register. Please note that except in rare cases, scholarships are available for tuition only. Centrum requires a $100 deposit of scholarship applicants, which is fully refundable before March 23 if you are unable to attend. If you are interested in volunteering, or a work trade position, please contact Peter McCracken at peter@centrum (dot) org.

Cancellation/Refund Policy
Full tuition is due upon registration, $50 of which is non-refundable.
Any fee that includes a room: no refunds are available after March 6, 2023.
Tuition, meals only, shuttle: no refunds are available after March 23, 2023.

Room & Board
Most participants stay in private dormitory rooms at Fort Worden. There are a limited number of double rooms, that is, rooms with two twin beds. If you’d like a double, please request one, and list another registered participant who has signed up for room and board in order to share that room. It is first come, first served.

Meals are served at Fort Worden Commons. The first meal is dinner on April 13; the last meal is breakfast on April 17.

Room and board final payment is due by March 16, 2023. We tend to run out of rooms as the workshop approaches, so if you’d like room and board we recommend signing up for it when you register.

If we haven’t answered all of the questions you may have, please contact Peter McCracken at 360-385-3102, x127, or peter@centrum (dot) org.

Find more answers - Centrum FAQs

Are the Ukulele Festival workshops appropriate for my skill level?
The Port Townsend Ukulele Festival is a gathering appropriate for advanced-beginner, intermediate, and advanced players. The word “beginner” covers a lot of ground. Most offerings at the workshop are geared towards people who know more than a few chords, and are capable of changing chords smoothly and in rhythm.

You’ll get the most out of your experience if you can do the following exercise in three different keys. Use a metronome!

At 60 beats per minute, play each chord four times (four beats per chord). Play the chords without diagrams, that is, by heart.

C – Am – F – G7 – C
It should take 20 seconds. Try it in these keys as well:
F – Dm – Bb – C7 – F
G – Em – C – D7 – G

If you can do this, then this workshop is for you! If you need to look up any of these chords, then you know what you have to work on (and master) before the festival starts.

Most of our workshops are family events, and we welcome musicians of all ages and abilities to participate. Our programming has annually evolved to meet the needs of very young musicians, and we devote considerable resources to this end.

If you are under 18, you must be accompanied by a registered adult. Please register the adult first, as you will need a confirmation number.

Daily Schedule

Thursday, April 13
4pm – Check-in begins at the Centrum office
6pm – Dinner in Fort Worden Commons
7:30pm – Orientation at Wheeler Theater

Friday, Saturday, Sunday
9–10:15am – First Class Session, choice of classes
10:45am–12pm – Second Class Session, choice of classes
12-1:30pm – Lunch
1:30–2:45pm – Third Class Session, choice of classes
3:15 – 4:15pm – Serendipity Hour
4:30 – 5:30pm – Open Mic
Public performances on Friday and Saturday; Farewell Party on Sunday!

Monday, April 17
8am – Breakfast and goodbyes
9am – Airport shuttle departs
11am – Check out of housing

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