This page is for Directors and Programmers of Folk and Ukulele Festivals. Here you will find descriptions for a variety of our ukulele and singing workshops.
Past Festival Workshops and Performances
- Lark Folk Music Camp – Northern California – 2014/15/16
- Kamloops Ukulele Festival – British Columbia (Canada)- 2016/17/18
- Rocky Mountain UkeFest (Durango, Colorado, USA) – 2017
- Palm Creek Folk Festival (Queensland) – 2015/16
- Wintermoon Springfest (Queensland) – 2017
- Turramurra Folk Music Camp (Victoria) – 2012/14
- Roses Gap Folk Music Camp (Victoria) – 2013/15/16
- North Country Fair – 2017 (4 hours north of Edmonton, Alberta)
- Calgary Ukulele Festival – 2018
- National Folk Festival – 2015/16/18 Canberra – Street Choir Program
- Bellingham Ukulele Campout (2013/14/15) (Washington State, USA).
What can we offer a festival?
Two engaged, likeable, funny, professional, cooperative Australians whose life-focus is mass musical participation and musicianship. We love jamming with people better than us, and with people who think we can play better than them. We play uke, baritone uke, banjo, guitar, trumpet, piano and bass. We both sing, entertain, harmonise, arrange, and write original music.
For Folk Festivals – a sample blurb
A Festival Ukestra!
We create a festival ukestra where we’ll teach two contemporary songs (over two sessions) which we’ve ukestrated into parts for an ukulele orchestra. The essence of a ukestra is to include all levels of ability, to stealth-teach music technique and theory, to create an entertaining sound, and to have fun. You will learn great riffs that make the songs sound so much more than the usual hum n strum of your typical ukulele group.
Ukulele Focussed Workshops for weekend intensives and instruction focussed festivals
Having taught and lead groups at home for nearly a decade means we have quite a quiver of teaching progressions that make for very effective 90 minute workshops. Of course we can discuss your required length of workshop. Here’s a sample…
We are rather renowned for our ukestrations of contemporary songs, and this constitutes our flagship workshop. The very essence of an ukestra is inclusion, so the parts cater for a wide range of abilities and aim to increase skills for all levels. We have some fun riffs and licks that make group-uke-performed songs sound so much more. But our real aim is to leave you with new skills, techniques and knowledge, and a new sound that you and your audiences will enjoy for their diversity and musical skill.
These skills are taught using a swathe of contemporary songs including those by Lorde, Gotye, Sia, Tom Petty, Paul Kelly, Burt Bacharach, The Madden Brothers, the Beatles, Ben Lee, U2, Jimmy Eat World, and more. Just ask, we are flexible to your needs and your target audience.
2. Singing the Strings (all levels)
Let your ukulele help you find vocal harmonies. This workshop is all about singing with the ukulele. Jane has been leading choirs for over 20 years and enjoys helping you find your voice. You will learn how to unleash your voice, or get better at finding your harmonies, or even go down the dark road of vocal improvisation depending on your level. All levels of singers are welcome!
Pre-requisites – shower singing, car karaoke or sheer determination and enthusiasm.
3. The building blocks of improvisation – a pentatonics love-in with My Girl and Sunshine of Your Love.
This is home base for Ukulele Improvisation (and is a prerequisite for later improvisational workshops). We learn two great songs, and along the way we learn the major and minor pentatonics.
Pre-requisites – know the names of your strings and about a dozen chords.
4. Ukulele Improvisation – Single note or Harmonised
4a. Playing it like you mean it! Single Note Ukulele Improvisation – (intermediate to advanced players). Prerequisite – Knowledge of the Pentatonics (for instance the above workshop)
Having learned the basics from Smokey and Cream (Workshop 2, above) we can now apply that knowledge to jamming, taking lead breaks, making up riffs and getting well beyond the strum. This workshop starts with the bedrock of simple improvisations built around the pentatonic scales, and takes you through how they are applied to different musical genres – blues, jazz, rock and pop.
5b. Harmonising like you mean it! Using harmonised scales to improve your solo-ing – (Advanced)
We learn well known songs like Spanish Harlem (Lieber/Spector) and Do you Know the Way to San Jose. Through these songs we cement our use of harmonised scales in our solo-ing skills.
6. The Basics of Chord Melody
Chord-melody is one of the most effective ways of playing ukulele – where you strum the chords and pick the melody at the same time. This is sometimes referred to as solo fingerpicking. In this workshop we will take you through the basics of playing a melody and then show you how to add the chords at the same time. If you get it right, it’s sorta like the melody just ‘falls out of the chords’. You don’t need to read music, but you will need to be open to learning tab, and most importantly, bring your listening ears. We teach a variety of contemporary songs to teach and develop your skills including Love Me Tender, My Old Friend the Blues and Norwegian Wood. This is not for beginners, BUT intermediate players (playing for more than 1 year) will get a lot out it.
7. Please no! Not music theory! Not on the ukulele!?
You’d be surprised to know that a lot of people DO want to know the inner workings of musical magic. And the uke is just the right magic wand to reveal those secrets. The circle of fifths, chord inversions, harmony, and all the related mathematical mumbo-jumbo is cleared up in this charming, concise and funny workshop featuring songs that you probably know and love all too well.
8. Stick your neck out and your hand up! Arranging and finessing performing skills
Many of us aspire to perform solo, or in small ensembles. Get beyond the strum, and start to arrange and develop your performance skills. In this workshop we’ll give feedback to those who want it. Go on! Dive in!
9. Strumming and timing – the great understated skill
We first learn with the fretting hand, but then the skills are really in the strumming/picking hand. With targeted workshops we help people develop their timing, their ear for good accompaniment, their strumming and their picking. From feathering to emph-a-sis or emphas-is, from travis to inside-outside, strumming and picking is the bane of many an ukulele player’s existence. Our strumming and picking workshop(s) use a variety of songs and genres to ac-cent-u-ate the positive and e-lim-inate the negative.
10. Songs from the Pacific: Hawaiian, Fijian and Maori songs (all levels)
Do you love the sound of the islander style music and want to learn how to sing and play a few of their songs? Want to learn some Polynesian and Melanesian songs in language? Don’t worry, it’s achievable in this workshop as their languages are mostly phonetic. You will also learn the islander strum pattern and swoon and croon some beautiful songs from our part of the world. All levels of players are welcome, and you can just focus on sing!ing if you like!
11. Beginners Ukulele Workshop
Over the last (nearly) decade we have run 100s of beginners workshops for thousands of people. Our beginners ukulele workshop is fun and funny yet methodical.
12. One Song Sing
Get the whole festival singing one song, in three part harmony, and make sure it goes up on social media. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing themselves on video, particularly amongst a bunch of friends – because everyone loves singing with everyone else. The One Song Sing is based on our monthly event at home, which in turn is based on the phenomenally successful Choir! Choir! Choir! initiative in Toronto, Canada. We can work together with up to 400 people. But really, we are only limited by the environment and the sound system!
13. Stand up and stand out – developing performance skills
In this workshop we approach performance as a challenge to present diversity; in repertoire selection, repartee, arrangements, keys, time signatures, and the use of a condenser mic to give different possibilities for how you are seen, heard and enjoyed.
How do you write a song? Or maybe its best termed ‘how do you right a song’? Wordplay, riffs, motifs, feel – good music writing can transform an I Love You into something way beyond the predictable. This practical and participatory workshop focuses on formulas and breaking formulas – in word, music and deed. Bring a pen, your chosen instrument, and a willingness to collaborate.
15. Feeling good on the bass
This is not a technique workshop for bass, or the variety that now exist. Double basses, u-basses, electric basses – if you have the fingers and some technique, we’ll address the crux of the issue – the interplay between feel, patterns and theory, the feels that bring a song to life and underpin the foundations of a well performed song or band.
16. Ukulele Leadership
It happened to me! We all experience those difficult moments, be they questions or people. How do you handle that? How do you answer a question to which you do not know the answer! Together we are a great community of knowledge and so our focus on this workshop is to lead discussions and training with ukulele community leaders and teachers, based on our long experience and reflections which we have written about in our books.
Sample Biographies for Festival Programs
Version 1 – 100 words
Jack n Jel (not their real names) are a dynamic, collaborative, flexible, fun and funny workshop and performance duo from Australia. At home Mark and Jane (their real names) run 11 weekly ukestra/choir sessions, but they also have an international reputation for ukestration workshops, helping community ukulele groups to develop their musicianship and joy beyond hum n strum.
In performance garb, Jack n Jel have been variously described as ‘mesmerising’, ‘funny’, and ‘a little brave’. They are a rare commodity – performers who can teach, teachers who can perform – using 8ish wee instruments jammed into life’s overhead lockers all the way from Newcastle, Australia.
Version 2 – 200 words
Mark & Jane, Jack n Jel: two names for a dynamic, collaborative, flexible, fun and funny workshop and performance duo. Mark Jackson & Jane Jelbart have achieved something rare – they make a living as uke-wielding community musicians at home in Newcastle NSW, AND they have built an international reputation for their two hour ukestration workshops. Each year they tour North America (and a growing list of other places) helping uke groups get beyond hum n strum, and to engage both beginner and experienced players into great arrangements of contemporary songs. Doing 9 uke workshops every week at home for 7 years does tend to hone one’s uke and voice teaching skills.
As duo Jack n Jel they have recently released their debut album, littered with the musical debris of their lives – uke, trumpet, guitar, piano, banjo, fine harmonies and the occasional contribution from a virtuosic friend or 2.
As ukestra directors it is not about them. It is about festival goers and the spirit of the place and the times in which they are immersed. Join Mark & Jane’s Festival Ukestra for a massive uke-ing good time, or see Jack n Jel for a rather more tender and refined musical experience. www.jacknjel.com