Wow, what a Mighty Uke Day we enjoyed last weekend! The weather was perfect, the workshops and concerts were wonderful, and it was fun seeing so many people walking the streets of Old Town carrying ukuleles and smiling 🙂 Here’s my look back on it all . . .
As most of you know, Mighty Uke Day is very long day – three, to be exact. Actually, it all starts with our MUD Fundraiser six weeks before and pre-festival events like the first-ever MUD Preview Concert and our CATA Bus Flash Mob, both held during the week prior.
The festival itself kicked off at noon Friday May 12 with our Downtown Lansing Flash Mob. This has become quite the event, we had at least 30 ukers there and drew a big crowd of onlookers as well as local television and radio stations. Larry Stump was there with his Guinness World Record 13’ ukulele and also brought it to our Occupy Ukulele Tent City, where it was the backdrop for many photos. The giant uke was also featured at our evening concerts, thanks Larry!
Friday afternoon, we held two well-received workshops conducted by Daniel Ward and Heidi Swedberg while Chuck Deyo and Mike Hefferan hosted an open mic and group strum at Sir Pizza. Jennifer Barnett, a jazz singer and uke player from East Lansing High School performed at a Elderly Instruments for a pre-concert set. Our Friday evening concert featured the “Women of the Great Uke State” with Julianna Wilson, Olivia Millerschin, Marlowe, and our headliner Rachael Davis. What a tremendous opportunity it was for us all to hear these talented songwriters and performers, all with their own voices and styles.
Saturday is always the craziest day at Mighty Uke Day and this year was no exception. We started it all off with a huge group strum at the Urban Beat Event Center, a new location for this. I had pretty much lost my voice by this point, so I basically acted as a conductor, some guest leaders stepped on stage to help and everybody sang enthusiastically. It was great, our best strum ever! After it was over, the crowd headed out to take in workshops, the open mic, Fawn Kopas’ Ukulele Puppet Show and other events around Old Town. The Featured Performer Stage at Urban Beat was busy all day with a diverse mix of talent and The Fabulous Heftones pre-concert show was a lot of fun. Saturday evening featured the precocious students of Melissa Sigh’s Studio of Music, followed by The Ukulele Kings, a reunion of Lost World String Band members Gerald Ross and Frank Youngman, and the main act of Heidi Swedberg and Daniel Ward. Heidi and Daniel captivated the audience with their songs, stage presence, and Daniel’s amazing ukulele technique. At the end, we all got on stage to play “Istanbul (not Constantinople)” together, what a blast!
But wait, there’s more! Sunday featured the “Uke”charist with pastors from All Saints and St. Michaels Episcopal churches and the attendees strumming and singing in worship. Our Mother’s Day Acoustic Afterglow show with Heidi and Daniel was a real delight; set in the intimate MICA Gallery setting that facilitates true bonding between the performers and audience. We even had dancing! This is quickly becoming a favorite part of the festival for many of our attendees. On Monday afternoon, Heidi and Daniel performed for the kids at Mt. Hope STEAM elementary.
Along with our headlining acts, we had a variety of great music at our Featured Performer and Open Mic stages. Some of you are seasoned performers and some were playing in front of an audience for the first time, thank you so much for sharing your talents and tunes with all of us. Special treats demonstrating the broad scope of the ukulele age demographic were 10-year-old Sylvie Keckstein in Lansing and the PT Strummers Senior Group from East Lansing’s Prime Time Senior Center. Ukester Brown (David Remiger) came over from Minnesota to play and other travelers included Jeff Krebs (Papa Crow) from Marquette and Meghan Cristeen Martin from Indiana. Thanks to Mike Dyer and Patrick Malloy for taking care of the sound at the Featured Performer Stage and for Joe at Urban Beat for taking care of us. Also, thanks to Chuck Deyo, Marion Koleski, and Tom Bernardi for keeping things running smoothly at the Sir Open Mic and John French for supplying the PA.
We had a lot of help in putting MUD 7 together and I know I’m going to forget someone, but I’d like to try and give thanks to folks who made the weekend so special.
We couldn’t have put this all together without our volunteers, stationed at the workshops, various stages, MUD HQ, and other areas. Thanks for donating your precious weekend time, I hope you had some fun during and outside of your shifts.
Our MUD committee was a big help in making this year’s festival work. Thanks to Jon Benallack for his graphic arts skills, management at Dart Auditorium, and photography; Cindy McElroy for the MUD banners hung around Old Town, Steve Szilagyi for proofreading our communications with the press and being the MUD “designated bass player”; Chuck Deyo for organizing the open mic and doing whatever else needed to be done; Larry Cooley for his financial guidance and workshop organization; John French and Chuck (Punch Drunk) for conducting the Two-Chord workshop and playing for the concert attendees while they waited to get in; and Sara Wagner for lining up the volunteers and running the merch table at the tent city, and working with Rhea Van Atta and Cindy at the Dart Auditorium merch table.
Sponsors old and new donated instruments and other items for our silent auction along with other contributions. After all was said and done, we raised over to $10,000 to go towards our Music is the Foundation school and community music programs. Thanks to the Ten Pound Fiddle for hosting the Children’s workshop as part of their Fiddle Scout series, Dave’s Ukes for their incredibly generous sponsorship of the Featured Performer Stage, GHS Strings for their sponsorship of the Ukulele Care workshop, and Rhea Van Atta and the Old Town General Store for sponsoring our performer and volunteer Green Rooms. Silent auction instrument donations were provided by Elderly Instruments, Kala Brand Instruments, Ohana, Mainland Ukes, Lanikai, Hohner, and Dave’s Ukes. And, and a big thank you to our VIP ticket-holders who gave a little extra to help out and for those of you who dropped a few bucks in our donation buckets. A huge thanks to Daedalian Lowry and our media sponsor, WLNZ Radio 89.7 from Lansing Community College. Their participation allowed us to return to Dart Auditorium for our evening concerts, by far the nicest venue we’ve used. Big props to Melissa Kaplan, Bob Fernholz, Julian, and Michael at Dart for their organization and expertise.
Other friends of MUD 7 include: Slick Shirts, MICA Gallery, Message Makers, Mother and Earth Baby Boutique, Absolute Gallery, Old Town Commercial Association, Red Cedar Friends Meeting House, Tony Coleman and Margaret Meagher of Tiny Goat Films (who started it all with the “Mighty Uke” documentary), Urban Beat Events Center, Diane Sanborn and the Cosy Koi, and our “home away from home” Sir Pizza.
Mighty Uke Day has strong supporters in the local press including Princess Gabbara from the Lansing State Journal, Eve Kuchinski from the City Pulse, Karen Love and Jack Robbins from WLNZs “Coffee Break”, Scott Pohl from WKAR, Tracy Maher from WILX, and WLNS – thanks for helping us get the word out and covering our funky little festival. Thanks also to Stan Werbin and Elderly Instruments for helping spread the word via their email list.
And, of course, we couldn’t have a festival without the attendees. There’s nothing better than seeing a few hundred people packing Sir Pizza and Dart Auditorium, walking around Old Town, jamming, and just having a great time overall. I hope you all had as much fun as it looked like!
We try our best to make Mighty Uke Day a little better every year, we need and value your input. Please take a couple of minutes to fill out our post-festival survey, we listen to your feedback and incorporate into future festivals what we can.
Visit our Mighty Uke Day home page for links to photos and video from the weekend, it’s always being updated so keep checking back. Also, please “like” our Facebook page to keep up-to-date on postings from MUD 7 as well as MUD 8 announcements. Jon Benallack has posted photos at: https://flic.kr/s/aHskVbX3R4 and Sara Wagner has set up an group photo sharing site at: https://www.flickr.com/groups/3691540@N20/ – you can add your own photos to this site to share. (Please, no big photo dumps – pick your best 20 – 30 photos to share.) You can join our mailing list at: http://eepurl.com/Asfwr
Make sure to mark your calendars for May 11 – 13, 2018 for Mighty Uke Day 8. It’s going to be more of the same fun, music, and community – we’d love to see you there.
Peace, love, and ukulele,